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Reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) after Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 Vaccination

Reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) after Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 Vaccination

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is sharing guidance received from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). In the United States, nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are now occurring in unvaccinated people. The risk of severe adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination remains rare. Everyone age 12 years and older is recommended to receive an age appropriate COVID-19 vaccine.

As of July 12th, CDC issued the following statement (attached) on reports of GBS in individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine:

COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. CDC and FDA are monitoring reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) after receiving Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine. GBS is a neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness or in            the most severe cases paralysis. Each year in the United States, an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS; it is typically triggered by a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection. Most people fully recover from GBS.

Reports of GBS after receipt of the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) 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 after 12.8 million doses of J&J/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), after over 321 million doses administered in the United States.
  • This issue will be discussed as part of an upcoming ACIP meeting

COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government and MDHHS, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People with GBS usually first experience weakness or tingling sensations in both legs. Many times, this spreads to the arms and upper body. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop weakness or tingling sensations in both sides of the body should contact their health care provider for their concerns. Health care providers are asked to report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated the Fact Sheet for Health Care Providers Administering Vaccine and the Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine updated July 12, 2021.The updated Fact Sheets for J&J vaccine reflect FDA’s-required update to include information about an increased risk of GBS during the 42 days following vaccination. Currently MDHHS is working to update the Fact Sheets with the Michigan Statements and will post Here.

Please stay tuned, as we learn more about this topic, we will share the information. 

If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 vaccination, please contact CHECCimms@michigan.gov.