Some people have expressed concern about reports indicating an apparently higher incidence of Bell’s palsy following vaccination against Covid-19. Currently there is no evidence that the numbers of reported cases of Bell’s palsy are higher than would be expected in the general population.

A group of experts (surgeons and physicians) in Facial Palsy at the Facial Palsy UK charity are monitoring the situation and will update this information as further evidence comes to light. Here is their statement:

“As of early-January 2021, there are three vaccines against Covid-19 being rolled out following promising trials and regulatory approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The Pfizer study was trialled on approximately 43,000 people, half of whom received the vaccine whereas the rest received a placebo. Analysis of the results showed that there were 4 cases of Bell’s palsy in the vaccinated group, as opposed to none in the group that received placebo.

In the Moderna vaccine trial of 30,000 people there were 4 cases of Bell’s palsy, three of which were in the vaccination group. The annual incidence of Bell’s palsy is approximately 30-40 cases per 100,000 people. Therefore one would expect a handful of cases in a random sample of 15-20,000 people (the size of the vaccinated group in the trials). We do not know why there were lower numbers of Bell’s palsy cases in the non-vaccinated. As part of usual monitoring after the introduction of a new treatment, doctors are encouraged to report any cases of adverse that might occur after vaccination.

There have been no reports of Bell’s palsy cases with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Statement above approved by Facial Palsy UK Medical Advisory Board (updated 11 Jan 2021)