A new study published in a peer-reviewed journal shows that there is a greater risk of neurological complications from COVID-19 compared to vaccines. Once again, we have actual medical science data showing that the COVID-19 vaccines are much safer than the disease.
The overall safety of the COVID-19 vaccines has been established in numerous articles. After several billion doses given, there are so few safety signals, and those are generally minor and extremely rare.
This newly published article examines the risk of neurological issues between vaccinated individuals and those who contract COVID-19. And once again, we see that the COVID-19 vaccine is demonstrably safer than getting the disease.
COVID-19 vs vaccine for neurological symptoms study
In a paper by Martina Patone et al., published on 25 October 2021 in Nature Medicine, 32 million patient records were examined. They examined the records of those who received the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines against the records of those who contracted COVID-19.
Here are some of the key results:
- Individuals who received the AstraZeneca vaccine had an increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome in the 28 days after their first vaccination. The researchers calculated the risk to be 38 excess cases per 10 million people vaccinated.
- Individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine had an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke in the first 28 days post vaccination. The study authors estimated that the risk was 60 additional cases per 10 million people.
- During the same 28 days following a positive COVID-19 test, individuals had 145 excess cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome per 10 million people, or about 2.5 times higher than in the AstraZeneca group.
- Also, the researchers found 123 excess cases per 10 million for encephalitis, meningitis, and myelitis in the postive COVID-19 group.
The authors concluded:
In summary, this population-based study identifies and quantifies several rare neurological adverse events that are specific to the ChAdOx1nCoV-19 (AstraZeneca) and BNT162b2 (Pfizer) vaccines, as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection. We believe that these findings are likely to be of relevance to other countries using these vaccines and it would be useful to replicate these results in similarly large datasets internationally. Clinicians should be aware of these rare complications, and the findings from this study will be paramount to policy makers in risk–benefit evaluations and health-care resource allocation. Importantly, the risks of adverse neurological events following SARS-CoV-2 infection are much greater than those associated with vaccinations, highlighting the benefits of ongoing vaccination programs.
Importantly, there appear to be some extremely rare neurological complications from the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. However, and I cannot stress this enough, they are extremely rare. And these neurological issues are several times less likely in the vaccinated group than what is observed in those who contract COVID-19.
With respect to hemorrhagic stroke observed in the Pfizer vaccine group, Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at the Imperial College London, stated:
The authors report an association between the Pfizer vaccine and haemorrhagic stroke – but this was only seen in one cohort, it wasn’t also found in the Scottish data, and it looks to me a very small signal and possibly not very significant.
Julia Hippisley-Cox, professor of clinical epidemiology and general practice at the University of Oxford, and co-author stated:
We know the COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at reducing risks of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection. Whilst there are some increased risks of very rare neurological complications associated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, these are much smaller than the risks associated with COVID infection itself. However, these very rare conditions are very important to spot to ensure that clinicians know what to look for, aid earlier diagnosis, and inform clinical decision making and resource management.
As I’ve written before, we should not apply the Nirvana fallacy to COVID-19 vaccines – there are minor and small neurological risks associated with these vaccines. But they are far less than those same risks with the disease itself.
- Patone M, Handunnetthi L, Saatci D, Pan J, Katikireddi SV, Razvi S, Hunt D, Mei XW, Dixon S, Zaccardi F, Khunti K, Watkinson P, Coupland CAC, Doidge J, Harrison DA, Ravanan R, Sheikh A, Robertson C, Hippisley-Cox J. Neurological complications after first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nat Med. 2021 Oct 25. doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-01556-7. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34697502.
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