BENGALURU: Two anganwadi workers, who experienced uneasiness after taking the first vaccine dose in January, were recently diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare condition in which a person’s immune system attacks the nerves. They are aged 35 and 45 and currently being treated at a hospital.
The exact cause of the syndrome is not known, but it is often preceded by a bacterial or viral infection. The two women, who were administered Covishield, are among the state’s 20 serious cases of adverse event following immunisation (AEFI).
The 35-year-old woman, from Shivamogga district’s Thirthahalli taluk, fell ill on February 10, almost 15 days after the first vaccine dose, and was admitted to the hospital of Kasturba Medical College (KMC), Manipal, the next day. She had progressive weakness in the hands and legs and also faced breathing difficulty. She was on ventilator support initially, but can breathe on her own now.
“She is currently in the ICU. Her condition was critical on admission, but she has responded to medicines. She is doing well,” said Dr Avinash Shetty, medical superintendent, KMC.
Dr Rajesh Surgihalli, health officer, Shivamogga, said that the woman’s condition was not linked to vaccination. “GBS is a coincidence, it’s not related to the vaccine,” he added.
The 45-year-old woman, from Raichur, complained of pain in the lower limbs and suffered a bout of vomiting on January 27, seven days after the first vaccine dose. She was brought to Nimhans on February 17. According to senior Nimhans doctors who are treating her, instances of GBS as an AEFI were seen in DPT, rabies and influenza vaccines earlier. “It is tough to arrive at conclusive statements like GBS was caused by the Covid-19 vaccine. Earlier, cases were reported after the administration of other vaccines. The condition is marked by an overactive immune system, which doesn’t correctly see the difference between the body’s own cells and vaccine proteins. The hyperactivity causes the neurological disorder,” a doctor explained.
Doctors say it is not possible to predict which person will develop GBS after vaccination. “We will never be able to predict. This is an unfortunate situation, but it should not deter people from taking the Covid-19 vaccine,” another Nimhans doctor told STOI.
The two women didn’t have a prior medical history of neurological issues. “A technical meeting is scheduled for next week to discuss and assess the cause,” said Dr Arundhati Chandrashekar, mission director (Karnataka), National Health Mission. A member of the state Covid-19 task force said that such cases must be studied with utmost care.