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While vaccines against coronavirus have been certified to be effective, there, unfortunately, have been some adverse reactions observed as well. From blood clots, heart inflammation, there’s now a new danger that seems to lurk with the administration of certain COVID-19 vaccines- Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare, but serious neurological disorder.

The FDA has now added a note of warning with one of the COVID-19 vaccines being approved for use, Johnson and Johnson’s Jannsen one-dose vaccine after some cases of neurological complications were reported after administration of the novel single-dose vaccine. While the vaccine developer is currently investigating the incidental risk, it’s relatively not the first time an apparent link between GBS and COVID-19 vaccines has been drawn up. Nor does the risk particularly fare well against the rare, but serious side-effects reported with COVID-19 vaccines, which cloud growing scepticism.

The advisory comes at a time when India and several countries across the world are pursuing talks to bring the low-cost, easy to store, innovative single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to use. What exactly does Guillain Barre Syndrome mean, and how dangerous is it, in relation to COVID-19 vaccines?
The FDA has considered issuing an advisory with the usage of the Jannsen COVID-19 vaccines after at least 100 cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome were identified in people who had been vaccinated with the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine shot in the USA.
While the classification of the condition is still rare, out of the total 13 lakh people inoculated with the novel vaccine, 95 of the 100 cases were found to be ‘serious’ in nature, requiring hospitalization, with one death recorded as well, accounting for it to be an adverse and serious reaction post-vaccination.

The incidents of Guillain Barre Syndrome and related symptoms were found to happen roughly 6 weeks post inoculation, which was later confirmed by Johnson and Johnson as well.
Guillain Barre Syndrome or GBS is characterized as a rare nervous disorder, wherein the body’s immune system launches an attack on the nervous system, causing symptoms ranging from muscle weakness to even paralysis.

As per WHO, the syndrome, which primarily attacks the nerves, affects the peripheral nerves which control muscle reaction, neuro-transmission, sensations, touch and connections.

In general, it remains completely unknown what exactly is the root cause of GBS, however, most cases of the nervous disorder result from a prior infection of any kind. Since there is also a risk of GBS being triggered off by vaccines or surgeries, experts are now weighing how big of a risk do COVID-19 vaccines pose.
GBS has been termed to be a serious, threatening adverse reaction with the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine right now. Medically, it is considered to be an autoimmune reaction, or flare-up, since it is an attack launched by the body’s own defences. Upon infection threat (or infection mimicked by a vaccine), the WBCs and antibodies put in charge to protect the body mistakenly attack the healthy cells and cause problems to vital organs. It should be remembered that autoimmune diseases are not contagious, or rarely hereditary.

The risks with GBS are flagged to potentially be serious and require hospitalization because in this case, the immune system launches an attack on the healthy nerves, which are crucial to our functioning. The peripheral nervous system, which is impacted by Guillain Barre Syndrome is involved in connecting our central line nerves to major organs and parts of the body, including vital organs, limbs and the skin, and thus, any symptoms need to be treated at once and often require additional treatment or hospitalization.

As found by authorities, while vaccination-related GBS in most cases has required hospitalization, one of the cases also led to death and hence, classified as a serious adverse threat, much like blood clotting and myocarditis risk with vaccines. The relative risk of Guillain Barre Syndrome, post vaccination, however, is still lower than the perceived risk in the general population and hence, vaccination should still be prioritized while keeping an eye out for this risk.
While most cases of GBS have been unfortunately recorded with the J and J COVID vaccine, it’s not the only vaccine that has come into question. Most recently, the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine (sold and marketed as Covishield in India) was linked to some neurological damages in some of the people who had been vaccinated. A total of 11 cases (7 from Kerala, India and 4 from Nottingham, UK) were recorded, wherein the beneficiaries had received the COVID-19 vaccine 10-22 days prior to the incidents.

Interestingly, both the Jannsen and the Astrazeneca vaccine have been found to carry similar adverse side-effects post inoculation, including blood clots and now, neurological damage.
Preliminary investigations suggest that most cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome were found amongst men, many of who were over the age of 50.

The characteristic features of the syndrome include facial weakness, partial paralysis, and require priority care and attention. However, as seen, some of the symptoms can show up weeks before, in the form of respiratory and gastrointestinal complications.

As per the WHO and Johnson and Johnson, the following are the primary symptoms of the nervous syndrome which needs medical attention ‘right away’:


-Weakness and tingling sensations, in the legs and arms.
-Swelling or reactions in the body
-Facial numbness or weakness
-Loss of sensation
-Problems with vision (double vision/ difficulty in moving eyes)
-Difficulty walking, making movement
-Difficulties with facial movement, including speaking, chewing or swallowing.
-Poor bladder control
Plans are being drawn up to get the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine to India. Another COVID-19 vaccine, associated with the risks, Covishield remains a primary vaccine in use. While the risks outweigh the cons, it is important to follow all diligent care and precaution, watch out for adverse reactions and seek care at once.

Just as with the incidental risk of blood clotting, with Guillain Barre Syndrome, it’s crucial that a beneficiary seeks help at the earliest observation of symptoms so that prompt treatment could be provided.

As with general precaution, do remember that even with adverse outcomes and risks, the risks upon catching COVID-19 are much more serious and potential and fatal, than not getting vaccinated.
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