Guillain-Barré Syndrome and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

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Guillain-Barré Syndrome and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine

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Minnesota Department of Health

July 14, 2021


MDH is aware of media reports regarding a rare increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) after receiving the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine. GBS is a neurological disorder that causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people fully recover from GBS.

COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority. CDC and FDA are monitoring the reports of GBS following Janssen COVID-19 vaccination in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The reports are rare, but do likely indicate a small possible risk of this side effect following this vaccine. Around 100 preliminary reports of GBS have been detected in VAERS out of 12.8 million doses of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine administered. These cases have largely been reported about two weeks after vaccination and mostly in males, many aged 50 years and older. Available data do not show a similar pattern with mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna).

The benefits of vaccination outweigh the slight risk of this side effect. MDH continues to recommend that people get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are able. There is plenty of Janssen, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna vaccine available across the state.

The FDA has updated the Janssen emergency use authorization (EUA) fact sheets for both health care providers and recipients at FDA: Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. Make sure you are using the most current version of these EUA fact sheets.

ACIP has announced they will convene on July 22, 2021, to discuss GBS after Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Meeting information can be found at CDC: Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Symptoms of GBS may include:

  • Weakness or tingling sensations, especially in the legs or arms, that’s worsening and spreading to other parts of the body.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing, or swallowing.
  • Double vision or inability to move eyes.
  • Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function.

If a patient presents with any of these symptoms, assess if they received a Janssen COVID-19 vaccine within the past 42 days.

Health care providers should report all cases of GBS after receiving COVID-19 vaccine to VAERS. To submit an event, go to VAERS: Report an Adverse Event. Use the checklist on this page to help gather information needed when submitting a report: VAERS 2.0_Checklist (PDF).

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