Facial nerve palsy following administration of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines: analysis of a selfreporting database


On 4 September, a study investigating cases of facial nerve palsy (or Bell's palsy) following administration of messenger RNA vaccines (BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273) was published, based on data from the U.S. vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS) database. A disproportionality analysis, adjusted for age and sex, was performed for the reports contained in VAERS for people over 18 years of age who were vaccinated between January 2010 and April 2021. Data from 2010 were used for comparison with the influenza vaccine. 

The analysis indicated that adverse events following immunization (AEFI) involving facial nerve palsy, following administration of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, had significantly high reporting rates for both BNT162b2 (reporting odds ratio [ROR] 1.84; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.65–2.06) and mRNA-1273 (ROR 1.54; 95% CI 1.39–1.70). The data represent 405 cases for BNT162b2 and 512 for mRNA-1273. These levels were comparable to levels following influenza vaccination, reported before the COVID-19 pandemic (ROR 2.04; 95% CI 1.76–2.36), involving a total of 462 influenza vaccine cases.

The authors’ conclusion was that the results suggest that the incidence of facial nerve palsy as a non-serious AEFI may be lower than, or equivalent to, that of influenza vaccines. This information might be of value in the context of promoting worldwide vaccination, but needs to be validated in future observational studies.

Source: K. Sato, T. Mano, Y. Niimi et al. Facial nerve palsy following the administration of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines: analysis of a self-reporting database. International Journal of Infectious Diseases 111 (2021) 310–312. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2021.08.071

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