The risk is “very rare” but serious enough for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) reports it: a new side effect has been added to the list of information related to the AstraZeneca – aka Vaxzevria – vaccine. As of July 31, 2021 and in over 592 million doses administrated worldwide, the health authority has reported 833 Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) cases caused by the vaccine.
The risk of developing the neurological disease with AstraZeneca is minuscule – less than one person in 10,000. Yet, the causal relationship between the two elements has been proven, according to the EMA. Doctors and patients must be made aware of the risk.
“Based on the assessment of these data and taking into account neurological expert advice, PRAC concluded that a causal relationship between Vaxzevria and GBS is considered at least a reasonable possibility”, the European agency stated adding they “should therefore be added to the product information as a side effect of Vaxzevria”.
This past July, the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and the EMA agreed to say the Janssen vaccine also put patients at risk of developing GBS. Janssen and AstraZeneca use the same adenovirus technology to fight against Covid-19.
What is Guillain-Barré syndrome? According to the World Health Organization, this disease touches nerves of people sick: “a person’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves. The syndrome can affect the nerves that control muscle movement as well as those that transmit pain, temperature and touch sensations. This can result in muscle weakness and loss of sensation in the legs and/or arms”.
This rare syndrome is – in most cases – only temporary. Symptoms can last several weeks before patients eventually recover. This disease is often caused by an infection or – in rare cases – vaccination or surgery.
If most patients recover without after-effects, GBS can be dangerous. The EMA encourage patients to urgently see with theirs GPs if they feel their extremities are numb or paralyzed as it could develop to the face and chest. This disease can attack respiratory systems, people infected must be hospitalized to be checked.
Despite this new adverse effect, the benefit/risk ratio still rules for the AstraZeneca vaccine. The latter is then still recommended to some people to fight against the pandemic.