No, COVID-19 vaccines haven't caused a 291 percent spike in Bell's Palsy

By: Arron Williams
March 15 2024

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No, COVID-19 vaccines haven't caused a 291 percent spike in Bell's Palsy

(Source: Facebook/Screenshot/Edited by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

There has not been an established link between COVID-19 vaccines and Bell's Palsy, nor evidence of a 291 percent increase in Bell's Palsy.

Claim ID 4afa7033


Several Facebook users shared screenshots (here and here) of an X post from Dr. Anastasia Maria Loupis, a known anti-vax figure, with the caption, "We did it! We finally beat Covid! This is what success looks like." The image lists various medical conditions with reported percentage spikes, including the claim that Bell’s Palsy has seen an increase of 291 percent. 

The shared X post, as seen on Facebook. (Source: Facebook/Screenshot/Edited by Logically Facts)

The X post is originally from 2022 and includes an extended version of the same list, linking to a source that claims these increases are related to COVID-19 vaccines. The source is from Sarah Westall’s website, which contains a variety of anti-vax and conspiracy theory articles. 

According to the National Health Service (NHS), Bell’s Palsy is a "temporary weakness or lack of movement that usually affects one side of the face." It includes symptoms such as weakness in one side of the face, a drooping eyelid or corner of the mouth, drooling, and a loss of taste. The condition can be treated with steroids, which help most people recover within six months.  

In fact

There is no evidence of a causal link between COVID-19 vaccines and an increased risk of Bell’s Palsy. 

Bell’s Palsy was reported during vaccine trials in 2020 by the the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In Moderna’s trials, among 30,350 total participants, three individuals in the vaccine group and one in the placebo group experienced Bell’s Palsy. In Pfizer’s trials, out of 43,252 total participants, four people in the vaccine group had Bell’s Palsy, but none in the placebo group reported the condition. 

However, both trial reports state that available information was insufficient to determine a causal link between vaccines and Bell’s Palsy. One of these reports also states that the rate of Bell’s Palsy observed in the trials is consistent with the expected background rate in the general population. However, the FDA at the time recommended surveillance for cases of Bell’s Palsy following the vaccine.

More recent research has also found no increased risk of Bell’s Palsy following COVID-19 vaccination. One 2021 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal looked at adverse drug reactions reported in the World Health Organization pharmacovigilance database. The study states that previous pharmacoepidemiological investigations have failed to identify a higher risk of facial paralysis following vaccination. Furthermore, it indicates that "the reporting rate of facial paralysis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination found in the present study is not higher than that observed with other viral vaccines… To conclude, if an association between facial paralysis and mRNA COVID-19 vaccines exists, the risk is likely very low, as with other viral vaccines."

Another 2021 study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngol Head & Neck Surgery concluded that "Despite rapid and extensive vaccination of the population, a similar volume of admissions for facial nerve palsy was seen compared with the same period in preceding years."

Additionally, a 2022 research paper by the School of Medicine, Cleveland and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in the U.S. also concluded that there is no definitive evidence of an association between the vaccines and Bell’s Palsy. 

A spokesperson from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also told Logically Facts that extensive safety monitoring by the CDC has not established a link between the mRNA Pfizer and Moderna, or Novavax, COVID-19 vaccines, and Bell’s palsy. They stated, "We have assessed the risk of Bell’s palsy among vaccinated people, and we have not seen increases after mRNA nor Novavax COVID-19 vaccines."

The source website linked in the X post referenced DMED, which is the United States Defense Medical Epidemiology Database, which provides data on diseases and medical events for U.S. military personnel.

Westall claims that this data showed increases in medical conditions following COVID-19 vaccinations. However, Logically Facts has previously fact-checked claims that DMED data showed a dramatic increase in medical conditions following vaccination, and found them to be false. The spike in data seen in the DMED was due to an error in the database and under-reporting, which led to a misleading appearance. There is no evidence that military personnel saw a spike in medical conditions due to the vaccine. 

Logically Facts has also published checks on the claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause miscarriages, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, finding them to be false.

The verdict

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have caused a 291 percent increase in Bell’s Palsy. There is also a lack of evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines cause Bell’s Palsy, but research is still ongoing. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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