NATIONAL (NEXSTAR) – Vaccinations are underway in the United States, but after seven people who received the injection – four in Pfizer-BioNTech’s trial and three in Moderna’s trial – developed Bell’s palsy, a weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles, misinformation is now spreading online.
Although Bell’s palsy sounds alarming – the symptoms cause half of the face to appear as if it’s drooping, according to the Mayo Clinic – it’s more common than people think and usually goes away within weeks or a few months.
The FDA said it is tracking Bell’s palsy cases after four people taking the Pfizer vaccine developed the condition, but there’s currently no reason to think the vaccine caused the condition.
Along with the three people who developed Bell’s palsy after taking the Moderna vaccine, a fourth, who took the placebo also experienced the condition. More than 30,000 people participated.
The four patients in the Pfizer trials get Bell’s palsy at different times after the injection – the first 3 days later, the second 9 days later, the third 37 days later and the fourth 48 days later. At least one had already recovered as of last week.
While none of the Pfizer placebo participants had the condition, officials say there’s still no reason to worry at this point, since the number of people who did experience Bell’s palsy is in line with how many people would be expected to get it in the greater population.
“The observed frequency of reported Bell’s palsy in the vaccine group is consistent with the expected background rate in the general population,” a briefing document from the FDA states.
In fact, it’s well below the number of people expected to get Bell’s palsy in the U.S. each year – 25 to 35 patients per 100,000, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
While the cases are likely not related to the vaccine, social media rumors have fostered doubt and suspicion about the vaccine, which the government approved for use last Friday.
A Reuters fact check found that one widely-shared image post showing three people with Bell’s palsy and claiming they were given the vaccine was false – it had been around since 2019.
Another post claims,”6 people dead so far from the covid vaccine, plus another 4 have developed Bells Palsy, a paralysis of the face……but hey, this vaccine is ‘safe’.”
While six of the 44,000 people in the trial did die, four had been given placebos. Of the remaining two, Reuters found, one died of cardiac arrest 62 days after vaccination and the other of arteriosclerosis three days after getting the shot.
On Wednesday, Twitter announced that it would start removing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations from its platform.
The policy will begin next week, and will crack down on tweets suggesting the virus is a hoax, the vaccination is used to harm or control people and other baseless claims.