Health Canada adds Bell’s Palsy warning to Pfizer labels, but says vaccine is safe

A nurse holds a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the COVID-19, in Athens, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Kostas Tsironis/Pool via AP

Health Canada has updated the label on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to reflect very rare reports of Bell’s Palsy.

In very rare scenarios, cases of Bell’s Palsy have been reported in a number of people in Canada and internationally.

So far in Canada, “there has been a total of 206 reports of Bell’s Palsy following a Pfizer vaccination,” the health agency told Global News in an email Friday.

Symptoms after vaccination may include temporary weakness or paralysis on one side of the face, according to an advisory issued by the department.

Other symptoms include, “uncoordinated movement of the muscles that control facial expression; loss of feeling in the face; headache; tearing from the eye; drooling; lost sense of taste on the front two-thirds of the tongue; hypersensitivity to sound in one ear; or inability to close an eye on one side of the face,” according to the advisory.

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However, Health Canada stressed that the cases are few, and ultimately very rare.

More than 50 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Canada to date, and Health Canada has received 2,849 reports of serious adverse events, including heart inflammation, allergic reactions, blood clots and strokes.

Health Canada advises people who feel the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy to seek medical attention.

Though usually temporary, the exact cause of Bell’s Palsy is still unknown and involves episodes of facial muscle weakness or paralysis. The symptoms often occur suddenly but generally start to improve after a few weeks.

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The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine label already comes with information about reported cases of Bell’s Palsy, and Health Canada “is continuing to assess this issue for all authorized COVID-19 vaccines” currently in use in the country, the release clarified. “The Department will take further action if necessary.”

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Health Canada emphasized that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, and all other approved vaccines, “continue to be safe and effective at protecting against COVID-19.”

“The benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh their potential risks, as scientific evidence shows that they reduce deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19,” the statement said.

Health Canada advises people who feel the symptoms of Bell’s Palsy to seek medical attention.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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