As COVID-19 vaccines are being rushed to distribution sites all over the country, staff at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cautioning doctors and patients to watch closely for the manifestation of Bell's palsy in recipients.
The FDA staff stopped well short of calling the condition – which results in half the patient's face to droop and sag – a side effect. But after a handful of patients that played a part in the vaccine trial program developed the condition, health officials said it bears watching.
The occurrence of the condition was extremely rare among trial participants, at four in 30,000 for the Moderna vaccine and four in 43,000 for the Pfizer vaccine.
The freezing or weakening sensation that accompanies Bell's palsy is almost always temporary, and that appears to be the case in the vaccinated trial patients as well. All but one of the trial participants who developed the condition have seen it resolve already.
According to the FDA, each of the patients who dealt with the face paralysis experienced the condition 22 to 32 days after being inoculated. Doctors and officials have all noted that there is insufficient evidence to link any causal relationship between the vaccine and the condition.