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COVID Vaccines Linked to Functional Neurological Disorders

https://www.medpagetoday.com/neurology/generalneurology/94151

by Judy George, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today August 20, 2021 Functional neurological disorders (FND) were found to be associated with COVID-19 vaccines, according to recent case reports.

Two cases of young women manifesting FND after COVID-19 vaccination were reported by Alfonso Fasano, MD, PhD, of the University of Toronto, and Antonio Daniele, MD, PhD, of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome, in a letter to the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

Two other published reports showed probable FND precipitated by COVID-19 vaccine administration, highlighting that FND should be considered when assessing post-vaccine neurologic symptoms, wrote Matthew Butler, MD, of Kings College London in England, and co-authors in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience.

FND involves a disruption in normal brain mechanisms for controlling the body. It can be triggered by physical or emotional events including head injury, medical or surgical procedures, or vaccinations. People with FND may present with a range of neurological symptoms such as seizures, sensory abnormalities, gait or balance disturbance, or weakness. FND is distinct from feigning because patients perceive their symptoms as involuntary.

“We strongly encourage clinicians to be aware of the possibility for FND in response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations,” Butler told MedPage Today. “FND can be a serious and debilitating condition; however, it does not implicate any vaccine constituents and should not hamper ongoing vaccination efforts.”

“Making clinicians aware of this can benefit people with FND reactions to vaccines, as well as maintaining public confidence in the vaccine,” Butler added. “Rigorous causality assessments should occur when FND reactions are suspected.”

“Among the various adverse events which might be observed after COVID-19 vaccination, the occurrence of functional — once called psychogenic — neurological disorders might be a challenging issue for healthcare providers, media, and public opinion with a negative impact on vaccination campaigns,” noted Fasano and Daniele.

“In our view, FND following COVID-19 vaccination will not be a rare phenomenon and will be widely covered by the media, being interpreted as a direct consequence of the vaccine, as already seen in the past,” they wrote.

The first case from Fasano and Daniele involved a woman who presented with a short episode of generalized psychogenic non-epileptic seizures 20 minutes after receiving her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The event was followed by different episodes that included an inability to move her whole body. No post-ictal period followed these episodes, some of which were captured by video-electroencephalography and did not show any epileptic activity.

The second patient had persistent dizziness and reported loss of tactile sensitivity in her right arm and leg about 2 weeks after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Her brain CT scan was unremarkable, and neurological examination did not show objective loss of tactile or pain sensitivity.

“In both patients, neurological symptoms were characterized by a sudden onset and overt inconsistency, as typically observed in patients with FND,” Fasano and Daniele wrote.

The cases reported by Butler and colleagues also involved previously healthy women, both in their 30s. One had probable FND after her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine; the other, after her first Moderna shot.

“The close development of functional motor symptoms after the vaccine does not implicate the vaccine as the cause of those symptoms,” observed Alberto Espay, MD, MSc, of the University of Cincinnati, who was not involved with the case reports.

“Correlation does not imply causation,” Espay told MedPage Today. “If neurological symptoms following vaccination are determined to be functional during a neurological exam, then the vaccination can only be considered a stressor or precipitant, much like any other stressor might, such as a motor vehicle accident or sleep deprivation.”

Earlier this year, a group led by David Perez, MD, MMSc, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, published a paper in JAMA Neurology that discussed videos that had emerged on Facebook, YouTube, and other channels showing people with severe neurological symptoms, such as convulsions and difficulty walking, after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The spread of these videos could fuel vaccine hesitancy by giving an overly simplistic impression of potential links between the vaccine and major neurological symptoms,” Perez told MedPage Today. “Instead, these are symptoms of a real, brain-based disorder that sits at the intersection of neurology and psychiatry.”

“It is recognized that physical events such as head injury, surgeries, or vaccinations in some individuals can precipitate the development of FND,” Perez continued. “In such instances, one of the important mechanisms is the attention drawn to the body.”

Neurologists and other healthcare professionals have an obligation to explain FND to the public, he added.

While health experts have tried to stress that in most cases, there is no direct link between COVID-19 vaccines and various media-covered adverse events, more needs to be done, Fasano and Daniele noted.

This is especially true in light of misinformation and conspiracy beliefs about the COVID-19 pandemic, which are “now enriched by the theories of anti-vaccine movements,” they wrote. “We suggest that the medical community should be more vocal in informing the media and public opinion about FND, thus making a further step towards the establishment of ‘eHealth literacy.'” Last Updated August 20, 2021

  • Judy George covers neurology and neuroscience news for MedPage Today, writing about brain aging, Alzheimer’s, dementia, MS, rare diseases, epilepsy, autism, headache, stroke, Parkinson’s, ALS, concussion, CTE, sleep, pain, and more. Follow

Disclosures

The study by Fasano and Daniele was funded by the University of Toronto and the University Health Network Chair in Neuromodulation and Multidisciplinary Care.

Fasano and Daniele reported no competing interests.

Butler and co-authors reported relationships with the National Institutes of Health Research, the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the United Kingdom Research and Innovation/Medical Research Council, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program ZikaPLAN.

Primary Source

Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry

Source Reference: Fasano A, Daniele A “Functional disorders after COVID-19 vaccine fuel vaccination hesitancy” J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2021; DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2021-327000.

Secondary Source

Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience

Source Reference: Butler M, et al “Functional neurological disorder after SARS-CoV-2 vaccines: two case reports and discussion of potential public health implications” J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 2021; DOI: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.21050116.

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7 Comments

  1. Jen Kulasegaram says:

    I had an FND event post 2nd dose with Astra Zeneca. Qld, Australia.

  2. Kathleen Alberque says:

    My husband has experienced Memory loss, cognitive cchanges
    since 2 weeks after the #2 Pfizer Vaccine shot.
    Would you advise him to avoid additional booster vaccine doses?

    1. Kathleen, we are sorry to learn of your husband’s vaccine complications. These occur due to the inflammation in the brain and nervous system from the lipid nanoparticle coatings of the mRNA and DNA COVID shots, and from the spike proteins these gene therapy shots trigger the body to make in uncontrolled amounts. WE cannot provide individual medical advice unless someone is an established patient of our physicians who does an individual risk evaluation. But CDC guidelines are clear – people who have had an adverse reaction to any vaccine (including shot #1 of the COVID shots), is at high risk of adverse reactions and should not get the COVID shot (or in this case second one.) When patients of mine ask this question, I explain that prevention and early treatment options are safer and provide better protection than the Covid shots, so why risk having a worse reaction getting another dose?
      Best wishes, Dr. Vliet

  3. Karen Turner says:

    I have received my second dose of the P vaccine. I am now having numbness in my hands and feet. My doctor is having me tested with an EMG for some syndrome that started with a P. I think it it a reaction to the shots.

  4. Azzie Ellingham says:

    Please advise how to treat heart muscle inflamation resulted from the 2nd shot of Pfizer…I went to our local ER. EKG was ok. They ruled out blood clotting…but did not tell me how to get rid of shortness of breath due to the heart inflamation…they hust said if necessary take aspririn…do you have any advise. I am female, age 64, healthy and fit prior to this side effect. Thank you

    1. Dr. McCullough, our Chief Medical Advisor, who is a cardiologist has done many interviews (see ones posted on our website) about treatment – the same treatments that we have all been using to treat COVID-19 illness EARLY to prevent hospitalizations and deaths are the treatments that help vaccine-injury syndromes caused by the spike protein (same mechanism of injury in COVID illness) that triggers inflammation (myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle) and blood clots. See our EARLY COVID TREATMENT GUIDE under Treatment tab on home page.

  5. JOSEPH HEMPFLING says:

    I HAVE A RELATIVE WHO WE SUSPECT IS SUFFERING FROM GUILLAIN-BARRE SYNDROME AFTER HAVING RECEIVED THE “FRANKEN-SHOT” AND NOW IS UNABLE TO WALK, CLIMB STAIRS AND HAS LIMITED USE OF HIS LEFT HAND AND LEG. AND AFTER GOING TO THE LOCAL HOSPITAL WAS GIVEN A HANDFULL OF MEDICINE TO TAKE AND SENT HOME. FORTUNATELY HE DIDN’T FOLLOW THE ADVISE AND RE-REPORTED TO THE EMERGENCY AND WAS HOSPITALIZED WHERE HE WAS SUPERFICIALLY TREATED, RELEASED AND TOLD TO SEE HIS CARDIOLOGIST ON MONDAY. THIS HAPPEN ON A WEEKEND. AND SO IT IS AND SO MUCH FOR COMPASSIONATE KNOWLEDGEABLE WESTERN MEDICINE CARE WHERE LIKE IT OR NOT WE ARE NOW BEING EXPERIMENTED ON. FORGET THE NUREMBURG CODE, OR FOR THAT MATTER THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH WHEN IT ALL AND I MEAN ALL COMES DOWN TO DOLLARS ! WELCOME TO THE NEW OLD MODEL WHERE WE HAVE BECOME DISPOSABLE AND STAND TO LOSE IT ALL UNLESS WE STAND UP NOW ! AND I MEAN N O W !

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