COVID and Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Vaccination to the Rescue!

Research Shows Higher Risk of Guillain-Barre Syndrome with COVID Infection, But Vaccines Offer Protection

COVID increases risk for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but vaccination decreases it.

Image Source: Getting COVID Raises Odds for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Vaccination Lowers Risk


We all know COVID is no laughing matter, but sometimes there’s a silver lining in the darkest clouds. A large-scale study of over 3 million Israeli adults and teenagers has revealed some intriguing findings about the connection between COVID infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological condition that can cause limb weakness, tingling sensations, and even paralysis.

It turns out that COVID infection significantly raises the risk of developing GBS in the following six weeks. It’s like stumbling upon a pothole in the road of life—only this pothole could potentially wreak havoc in your immune system and nervous tissue. But fear not! The study also showed that vaccination might just be your superhero shield against GBS.

Let’s break down the nitty-gritty details. GBS occurs more frequently after respiratory or gut infections, so encountering this syndrome post-COVID is not entirely unexpected. As Dr. Dennis Bourdette, neurology professor emeritus at Oregon Health & Science University, puts it, “I would be surprised if COVID infection did not increase the risk of GBS.” But here’s the real kicker: the study found that people who had recently been vaccinated against COVID with the Pfizer mRNA vaccine had a 50% lower risk of developing GBS compared to the unvaccinated population.

Why is this a big deal? Well, it turns out certain vaccines, like AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, have been associated with small increases in GBS risk. But fear not, fellow vaccine recipients! The study suggests that COVID mRNA vaccines don’t just avoid causing GBS but might actually protect you from it. Talk about a double win!

Now, let’s dive into the study’s methodology. Dr. Anat Arbel and her team at Lady Davis Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, meticulously tracked medical records of nearly 3.2 million Israeli patients aged 16 and older. Remember, at the beginning of the study, none of these patients had a history of GBS. Over the study period, which ran until June 2022, 76 people were diagnosed with GBS. The researchers compared these patients with a control group of 10 individuals, matched by age and sex, who were GBS-free.

The results spoke volumes. COVID infection within the past six weeks raised the risk of GBS over sixfold compared to those who were COVID-free during the same period. On the other hand, people who developed GBS were less likely to have been vaccinated within six weeks before their diagnosis, with vaccination percentages standing at less than 11% versus 18% in the GBS-free group.

Why the vaccine might lower the risk of GBS is still a bit of a mystery. The obvious explanation is that it prevents some GBS cases by preventing COVID in the first place. But Dr. Bourdette suggests we consider another possibility. Could COVID mRNA vaccines induce some immune changes that decrease the likelihood of developing viral infections associated with GBS? Further research is needed to answer this question, but it’s an intriguing idea.

So, rejoice, vaccinated warriors! This study should provide some peace of mind regarding the safety of mRNA vaccines against COVID. According to Dr. Bourdette, anyone concerned about getting GBS from a COVID mRNA vaccine can rest easy knowing that this particular type of vaccine doesn’t cause GBS. It might even reduce the risk. It’s just another reason to keep up with those recommended COVID vaccinations.

Reader interaction time! Have you ever wondered about the potential side effects of COVID vaccines, like GBS? Share your thoughts and let’s have a conversation!