RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The 61-year-old patient experienced two facial palsies, one after the first and the other after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which may suggest that Bell’s palsy of facial nerves of unknown cause “is related” to this vaccine, according to the study’s authors.
This is the first case documented in medical literature of two unilateral facial nerve palsies, in which the muscles on one side of the face are weakened or paralyzed, occurring shortly after each dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The article was published in BMJ Case Reports scientific journal.
According to the authors, “the occurrence of such events immediately after each vaccine dose strongly suggests that Bell’s palsy was associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, although a causal relationship cannot be established.”
In a press release, the publication recalls that in the initial clinical trials of the three main Covid-19 vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca, 10 events of unilateral facial nerve palsy were reported, and there have been subsequent case reports.
This “case study” describes a 61-year-old Caucasian male with no history of facial nerve palsy who experienced an event on the right side of the face 5 hours after being administered the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
And a more severe event (with difficulty swallowing and inability to fully close his left eye, among other symptoms) on the left side of the face 2 days after the second dose.
The patient had a high body mass index, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The authors report that his symptoms have greatly improved and he is has returned to near normal.
Cases of Bell’s palsy are generally believed to be related to inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve due to fluid accumulation (edema) caused by a virus.
Risk factors include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, pregnancy, pre-eclampsia and upper respiratory tract diseases.
According to the statement, an increased incidence of Bell’s palsy has also been observed after the administration of other influenza and meningococcal vaccines, although a causal relationship has not been established.
Study finds low risk
Covid-19 patients are 7 times more likely to suffer facial palsy than people vaccinated against the coronavirus, a study has found. The research published in JAMA scientific journal pointed out that Bell’s palsy, a nerve condition that causes a patient to experience muscle weakness in the middle of the face, is an uncommon side effect of vaccines but it is in fact more common among patients who contract the coronavirus.
The findings emerged from a study by University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers, who found that coronavirus patients were 7 times more likely to develop facial paralysis compared with those who had been vaccinated against the disease.
Among the 37,000 immunized individuals who took part in the study, only 8 cases of Bell’s palsy were reported, an incidence of 19 cases per 100,000 vaccinated subjects, compared with an incidence of 82 per 100,000 for coronavirus patients.
While physicians and vaccine manufacturers will continue to carefully monitor vaccine side effects, the research team stressed that the findings suggest that Bell’s palsy should be an additional reason to be vaccinated, rather than a side effect to be feared.