Does The Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Bell’s Palsy?

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Antivaxxers and Google University doctors are warning people that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can cause Bell’s palsy.

Find out what’s going on, and if the Pfizer mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 can really cause Bell’s palsy!

Don’t forget to also read Fact Check : Six People Died From Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine?

 

Bell’s Palsy : What Is It?

Bell’s palsy is a type of temporary facial paralysis, of unknown aetiology (cause) but results from a dysfunction of the facial nerve.

Commonly, there is a rapid onset of muscle weakness on one side of the face, which can sometimes end in total paralysis within hours or days.

This often results in a facial droop, with the inability to close an eye or one side of the mouth (causing drooling).

Every year, between 1 and 4 per 10,000 people (0.01% to 0.04%) will develop Bell’s palsy. That’s roughly 8~31 million people every year globally.

Bell’s palsy typically resolves by itself within a few weeks or months, and is usually treated only using corticosteroids to speed up recovery.

Does The Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Bell's Palsy?

 

Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine & Bell’s Palsy : What Happened?

On 10 December 2020, the FDA released the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine briefing document for the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC).

That document included this statement about four volunteers developing Bell’s palsy after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. It also noted that no one in the placebo group developed Bell’s palsy.

Pfizer Bell's Palsy notification

The media picked up on this, and ran stories on how four Pfizer vaccine volunteers developed Bell’s palsy.

And antivaxxers and Google University doctors quickly leaped on this news as a reason to be wary about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

 

Does The Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Bell’s Palsy?

With the frenzied coverage of these four Bell’s palsy cases in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial, people are wondering :

  • does the vaccine cause Bell’s palsy?
  • is the vaccine really safe to take?

Let’s break down the facts for you, so you can better weigh the risks and benefits for yourself.

Fact #1 : Correlation Is Not Causation

First of all, it is important to understand that just because something happened during the vaccine trial, it doesn’t mean that the vaccine caused it.

For example, if you get infected with the flu virus after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, does it mean that the vaccine infected you with the flu virus? Of course, not.

There are many, many examples of how correlation does not mean causation, like this one which shows how ice cream sales correlate eerily with the number of shark attacks. Needless to say, selling ice-cream does not cause shark attacks!

Now, we cannot definitively say that the Pfizer BNT162b2 vaccine cannot cause Bell’s palsy. We simply do not have enough information to make that conclusion.

However, it is also wrong to jump to the conclusion that those four cases of Bell’s palsy were caused by the vaccine, because that is simply no evidence of that either.

Fact #2 : The Cases Were Within Normal Incidence

What many people forget is that Bell’s palsy occurs naturally in the human population, at a rate of 1~4 per 10,000 people.

In the vaccine trial, a total of 21,823 people were given the BNT162b2 vaccine.

We would expect anywhere between 2 to 9 people in that cohort to develop Bell’s palsy naturally in a year, or 1 to 4 people during the roughly 6 month trial period.

So the four reported cases would fall within the normal incidence range for Bell’s palsy – 0.01% to 0.04%. This was actually noted in the document THREE separate times :

The observed frequency of reported Bell’s palsy in the vaccine group is consistent with the expected background rate in the general population, and there is no clear basis upon which to conclude a causal relationship at this time.

This observed frequency of reported Bell’s palsy is consistent with the expected background rate in the general population.

The four cases in the vaccine group do not represent a frequency above that expected in the general population

In other words, even if you do NOT take the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, you have a 0.01% to 0.04% risk of developing Bell’s palsy anyway… every year.

Fact #3 : All Four Cases Recovered / Are Recovering

The document also noted that one case recovered within 3 days, while the other three were recovering after 10, 15 and 21 days.

As we pointed out earlier, Bell’s palsy patients commonly recover within weeks or months, even without medical intervention.

In other words, Bell’s palsy is NOT life-threatening, and generally resolves by itself. Quite unlike an actual COVID-19 infection…

Fact #4 : COVID-19 Mortality Rate Is Roughly 2.3%

Based on the 10 December 2020 global statistics, the COVID-19 mortality rate is approximately 2.3% – 69.9 million people were infected, and 1.59 million of them died.

Compare that to the “risk” of getting Bell’s palsy from the Pfizer BNT162b2 vaccine – 0.018%.

In other words, the risk of dying from COVID-19 (after getting infected) is 128X higher than the potential risk of getting a temporary facial paralysis from the vaccine.

If you wanted to bet your life, would you opt for the higher risk of dying from COVID-19, or the minuscule risk of temporary facial paralysis?

 

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