A new study published in the latest issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases has found no link betweek vaccinations and Guillain-Barré syndrome. The disease is a neurological disorder that affects a person's nervous system, leading to weak hands and feet before gradually leading to full-body paralyzation.
The study looked at 415 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome from 1994 to 2006. Of these patients, only 25 were found to have received a vaccine in the six weeks prior to the onset of Guillain-Barré. The study includes all vaccines, including flu vaccinations. These findings contradict a 1976 study that linked a flu vaccine to Guillain-Barré syndrome. No studies since have been able to replicate such a link.
The study did find that 277 of the patients (two-thirds of them) had a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness in the 90 days prior to the onset of Guillain-Barré. This matches much of what is already known about the onset of Guillain-Barré syndrome, though many cases of the disease do not have any known cause.
"If there is a risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome following any vaccine, including influenza vaccines, it is extremely low," said Dr. Roger Baxter, lead author of the study and a co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.
Baxter and his colleagues claim this new study is a more accurate assessment of Guillain-Barré syndrome risk following a vaccination than previous studies. They claim that by focusing on outcome and then determining whether a vaccination took place, they were able to avoid many of the changing variables seen in other studies, such as vaccination rates.