In November 2021, an image was circulated on social media that supposedly showed a poster from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), a regulatory body in Ireland, listing "Bell's palsy" and "sudden death" as COVID-19 vaccine side effects:
The HPRA added a page to its website to address Misleading Vaccine Information. This section starts with a paragraph noting that the HPRA does not produce COVID-19 vaccination posters and that any posters floating around on social media or in print likely contain false information:
"The HPRA does not produce COVID-19 vaccination posters. Any COVID-19 vaccination posters circulating – whether in print or via social media – that are portrayed as being from the HPRA are likely to be fabricated and to contain false or misleading information."
The COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be both safe and highly effective. While some people may experience side effects, these side effects are generally mild and momentary.
The CDC writes:
COVID-19 vaccination will help protect people from getting COVID-19. Adults and children may have some side effects from the vaccine, which are normal signs that their body is building protection. These side effects may affect their ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Some people have no side effects, and allergic reactions are rare.
Serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose. For this reason, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) collected data on each of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines for a minimum of two months (eight weeks) after the final dose. CDC is continuing to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines even now that the vaccines are in use.
The most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are pain, redness, or swelling on the arm where you received your shot, and momentary fatigue, fever, headaches, or chills. The FDA writes regarding the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine:
The most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever. Of note, more people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose, so it is important for vaccination providers and recipients to expect that there may be some side effects after either dose, but even more so after the second dose.
Neither the FDA, the CDC, nor the HPRA listed Bell's palsy as a common side effect.
While Bell's palsy is not a common side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, a very small number of people did report temporary symptoms during clinical trials of the vaccine. According to Reuters, there were 16 reported cases of Bell's palsy out of 537,000 people who took the Pfizer vaccine. However, the FDA found these cases "insufficient for FDA to conclude that these cases were causally related to vaccination."
Beware of Misleading Vaccine Information. https://www.hpra.ie/homepage/medicines/covid-19-updates/beware-of-misleading-vaccine-information. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.
“COVID-19 Vaccination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/keythingstoknow.html.
“What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Nov. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html.
“Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.” FDA, Nov. 2021. www.fda.gov, https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/moderna-covid-19-vaccine.
Hart, Robert. “Small Risk Of Mostly Temporary Facial Paralysis After Covid Shots Is Vastly Outweighed By Benefits Of Vaccination, Study Finds.” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthart/2021/08/16/small-risk-of-facial-paralysis-after-covid-shots-is-vastly-outweighed-by-benefits-of-vaccination-study-finds/. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.
“Higher Risk of Bell’s Palsy after Sinovac’s COVID-19 Vaccine - Study.” Reuters, 17 Aug. 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/higher-risk-bells-palsy-after-sinovacs-covid-19-vaccine-study-2021-08-17/.
Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC. 5 Nov. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/clinical-considerations/covid-19-vaccines-us.html.
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions & Adverse Events | CDC. 5 Nov. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/pfizer/reactogenicity.html.