H1N1 Vaccine Safety: Guillain-Barré Syndrome – Less Mysterious, More Manageable and Very Rare

Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is a very rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Specifically, “GBS damages the nerves’ protective covering (myelin sheath) and this interferes with the signaling process, causing weakness, numbness or paralysis.”  There is no cure for GBS but it is treatable.  Most recover and this may involve months of physical therapy.

GBS is termed a “syndrome” as there is no apparent disease-causing agent involved. There are 6000-9100 cases of GBS annually. Most instances of GBS (around two-thirds) have occurred after severe respiratory or intestinal infections.  GBS has also been associated with bacterium Campylobacter jejuni and the Epstein-Barr virus. Surgery or vaccinations, on rare occassions, can trigger GBS. 

In 1976, around 45 million Americans — almost 25% of the population — received swine flu vaccine as part of a national vacination campaign.  However, the program was halted after 10 weeks in operation.  “More than 500 people (were) thought to have developed Guillain-Barré syndrome after receiving the vaccine; 25 died. The federal government paid millions in damages to people or their families.”

Since that experience, most studies have found no association between GBS and the seasonal influenza vaccine.  However, two studies suggested that around one additional person out of one million vaccinated people may be at risk for GBS.  The H1N1 vaccine is expected to have the same safety record as seasonal flu vaccine.

HHS tracks adverse reactions to the H1N1 vaccine using a passive reporting system termed “VAERS” (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System), along with other surveillance mechanisms. VAERS data can be accessed online through CDC’s WONDER (Wide Ranging Online Data for Epidemiological Research)

More than 60 million Americans have been vaccinated against H1N1 in 2009 (20% of the population). Suspected GBS cases associated with the H1N1 vaccine are rareEditor’s Note: A query of VAERS data on WONDER for GBS reports in 2009, involving the injection and nasal spray H1N1 vaccines, returned 38 records.


CBS: GBS a Side Effect of H1N1 Vaccine?
CDC: Fact Sheet: Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
CDC: General Questions and Answers on Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
LA Times: Swine flu ‘debacle’ of 1976 is recalled
Mayo Clinic: Guillain-Barré Syndrome
MSNBC: Va. teen suffers rare illness after swine flu shot
NIH/NINDS: Guillain-Barré Syndrome Information Page
NYTimes: Fear of a Swine Flu Epidemic in 1976 Offers Some Lessons, and Concerns, Today
UPI: CDC H1N1 Guillain-Barre syndrome remote

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  1. However, the swine flu outbreak was a ‘false pandemic’; said Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe (January 8, 2010). He has branded the H1N1 outbreak as ‘one of the greatest medical scandals of the century’. However, swine flu is not the first time we have suffered this nonsense. See predictions about BSE/ vCJD by Roy M. Anderson. He has mathematically modelled the spread of new variant Creutzfeld- Jakob disease (v CJD), published in Nature (406, 583-584; 10 August 2000). There his team showed that the current mortality data are consistent with between 63 and 136,000 cases among the population known to have a susceptible genotype (about 40% of the total population), with on average less than two cases of vCJD arising from the consumption of one infected bovine. However, far fewer people are carrying the human form of mad cow disease than previously feared. There have been 168 definite or probable cases of vCJD since 1995, suggesting that the risk had been „overestimated“. WHY? Because in Britain, much of the alarmism about Mad Cow disease was never justified scientifically. It was pure, math-model-driven science fiction. But it was pushed very vigorously by the British science establishment, which has never confessed to its errors!. This led to an obscene £5 billion campaign of British cattle destruction and compensation. So this could be “more greatest medical scandal”… WHY? According to my opinion BSE (popularly called ‘mad cow disease’) is not an infectious disease ( http://www.bse-expert.cz ). See these relationships, according to my recent presentation at 29th World Veterinary Congress in Vancouver; Neurodegenerative Diseases and Schizophrenia as a Hyper or Hypofunction of the NMDA Receptors (www.bse-expert.cz/pdf/Veter_kongres.pdf).

    Posted January 18, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink