Acute-onset polyradiculoneuropathy after SARS-CoV2 vaccine in the West and North Midlands, United Kingdom

Muscle Nerve. 2022 Feb;65(2):233-237. doi: 10.1002/mus.27461. Epub 2021 Nov 26.


Introduction/aims: We aimed to determine whether specific severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) vaccines may be associated with acute-onset polyradiculoneuropathy and if they may result in particular clinical presentations.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed records of all persons presenting with acute-onset polyradiculoneuropathy from January 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021, admitted to two Neuroscience centers, of the West and North Midlands, United Kingdom. We compared subjects with previous SARS-CoV2 vaccine exposure with a local cohort of persons with acute-onset polyradiculoneuropathy admitted between 2005 and 2019 and compared admission numbers for the studied time frame with that of the previous 3 years.

Results: Of 24 persons with acute-onset polyradiculoneuropathy, 16 (66.7%) presented within 4 weeks after first SARS-CoV2 vaccine. Fourteen had received the AstraZeneca vaccine and one each, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The final diagnosis was Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in 12 and acute-onset chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy in 4. Among AstraZeneca vaccine recipients, facial weakness in nine persons (64.3%), bulbar weakness in seven (50%), and the bifacial weakness and distal paresthesias GBS variant in three (21.4%), were more common than in historical controls (P = .01; P = .004, and P = .002, respectively). A 2.6-fold (95% confidence interval: 1.98-3.51) increase in admissions for acute-onset polyradiculoneuropathy was noted during the studied time frame, compared to the same period in the previous 3 years.

Discussion: Despite a low risk, smaller than that of SARS-CoV2 infection and its complications, exposure to the first dose of AstraZeneca SARS-CoV2 vaccine may be a risk factor for acute-onset polyradiculoneuropathy, characterized by more common cranial nerve involvement.

Keywords: Guillain-Barré syndrome; chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy; polyradiculoneuropathy.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome* / chemically induced
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy* / chemically induced
  • Polyradiculoneuropathy* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United Kingdom


  • COVID-19 Vaccines