The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) at the World Health Organization (WHO) issued recommendations on rare reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) following vaccination with the COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
Overall, the committee concluded that that the potential benefits of both COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh any potential risk of GBS, particularly given the increase in the more transmissible Delta (B.1.617.2) variant.
GBS is a rare immune system disorder that results in muscle weakness, pain or numbness, and, in more severe cases, paralysis. GBS could result from different causes, including infections, and occurs more frequently in males and people over 50 years old. Cases may occur coincidentally following vaccination. For example, rare cases of GBS have been observed following seasonal influenza vaccines and vaccines to protect against shingles, but it is not known if the vaccines cause GBS.
Countries should continue to collect detailed data on cases. Ideally, data should be gathered through active surveillance within hospitals to provide a more thorough understanding of this safety issue. The WHO COVID-19 vaccine safety surveillance manual provides guidance to countries on the safety monitoring and adverse events data sharing for COVID-19 vaccines.