Background: The number of reports of influenza-vaccine-associated Guillain-Barré syndrome to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System increased from 37 in 1992-1993 to 74 in 1993-1994, arousing concern about a possible increase in vaccine-associated risk.
Methods: Patients given a diagnosis of the Guillain-Barré syndrome in the 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 influenza-vaccination seasons were identified in the hospital-discharge data bases of four states. Vaccination histories were obtained by telephone interviews during 1995-1996 and were confirmed by the vaccine providers. Disease with an onset within six weeks after vaccination was defined as vaccine-associated. Vaccine coverage in the population was measured through a random-digit-dialing telephone survey.
Results: We interviewed 180 of 273 adults with the Guillain-Barré syndrome; 15 declined to participate, and the remaining 78 could not be contacted. The vaccine providers confirmed influenza vaccination in the six weeks before the onset of Guillain-Barré syndrome for 19 patients. The relative risk of the Guillain-Barré syndrome associated with vaccination, adjusted for age, sex, and vaccine season, was 1.7 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 2.8; P=0.04). The adjusted relative risks were 2.0 for the 1992-1993 season (95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 4.3) and 1.5 for the 1993-1994 season (95 percent confidence interval, 0.8 to 2.9). In 9 of the 19 vaccine-associated cases, the onset was in the second week after vaccination, all between day 9 and day 12.
Conclusions: There was no increase in the risk of vaccine-associated Guillain-Barré syndrome from 1992-1993 to 1993-1994. For the two seasons combined, the adjusted relative risk of 1.7 suggests slightly more than one additional case of Guillain-Barré syndrome per million persons vaccinated against influenza.