WHO on reports of Guillain-Barre (GBS) after COVID-19 vaccines

July 27, 2021

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.

Other recommendations include the following:

·        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.

·         People receiving Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines should be alert to signs and symptoms of GBS and should seek immediate medical attention if they develop weakness/tingling and paralysis in the extremities that may progress to other parts of the body including the chest and face. Symptoms may include difficulty in walking; difficulty with facial movements; double vision or inability to move eyes; or difficulty controlling bladder or bowel functions. Healthcare professionals should be aware of these signs and symptoms to allow for early diagnosis and treatment. Most people fully recover from GBS.

Visit WHO for more news