JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A post has been circulating around social media, saying that three of four volunteers developed Bell’s palsy after “being vaccinated with the Pfizer covid experimental vaccine.”
According to Mayo Clinic, the exact cause of the disease -- also known as peripheral facial nerve palsy -- is unknown and can occur at any age. The condition causes temporary weakness or paralysis of facial muscles.
Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville’s director of infectious disease, said misleading posts like this are common.
“This is something popular going around social media, particularly with the anti-vaccination crowd,” he said.
He’s reminding the public that not everything posted on social media is true.
“There’s no evidence of that with this vaccine yet,” he said. “Certainly, when Pfizer released their clinical trial information, the adverse effects were reported and it was nothing serious. I’ll go on to say there we’re deaths in the trial and none of them we’re linked to the vaccine.”
To be clear, four participants in the Pfizer vaccine trial and four participants in Moderna’s trial did experience Bell’s palsy.
In Pfizer’s trial, all four participants who experienced Bell’s palsy received the vaccine. In Moderna’s trial, three participants who experienced Bell’s palsy got the vaccine, one got the placebo.
Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, with Baptist Health, says that should not deter anyone from getting the vaccine.
“Just like there were some cases of appendicitis both in the vaccine arm and in the placebo as well,” she said. “These things will occur naturally.”
The FDA recognized these cases of Bell’s palsy before approving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine but says there is no evidence to link the two. It’s important to note that the reaction didn’t happen immediately after the vaccine was administered but in all cases weeks later.
The FDA is now recommending surveillance of cases of Bell’s palsy as more people get the vaccine. Since there is nothing scientific directly linking the two, we are going to mark this claim as “Not True” on the trust index.
As for the above picture that accompanies the post, we are also going to mark this as “Not True.”
This photo appears in an article about Bell’s palsy dated Nov. 20, 2019, well before the first documented cases of COVID-19 in the United States.