Allegations that COVID-19 vaccines cause the Stiff Person Syndrome, a rare neurologic condition, are unsupported as of the writing of this article, experts contacted by Reuters said.
Online posts linking COVID-19 vaccination with the condition that causes muscle rigidity and spasms, populated social media after Canadian singer Celine Dion announced on Dec. 8 that she had been diagnosed with the syndrome, explaining that some of her European shows would be postponed (here).
A Reuters report about Dion’s announcement can be seen here: (here).
Representatives for Dion did not respond to Reuters requests for comment
STIFF PERSON SYNDROME
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), defines the Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) as a “rare progressive neurological disorder.” It can cause stiff muscles in the trunk of the body, arms and legs, and muscle spasms triggered by “greater sensitivity to noise, touch, and emotional distress” (here).
The exact cause of this rare condition, which affects “only about one or two in a million people” according to John Hopkins Medicine (here), remains unknown, but it has been commonly associated with an autoimmune reaction, in people with higher levels of antibodies to glutamic acid decarboxylase (known as GAD antibodies) (here), the NINDS says.
“We don’t understand how these antibodies get formed or what causes them in some people,” Kunal Desai, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Yale University, told Reuters over the phone.
Scott Newsome, Director of the Stiff Person Syndrome Center at the Johns Hopkins Hospital says the condition was first described in the 1950s and was originally referred to as “stiff man syndrome” in a video posted by John Hopkins Medicine (here).
According to a Merck doctor’s manual, the syndrome affects women more commonly and “often occurs in people with type 1 diabetes, certain autoimmune disorders, or certain kinds of cancer.” (here).
Experts contacted by Reuters said that there is no evidence so far showing that SPS is caused by COVID-19 inoculation.
“As far as I know there’s no real association with the COVID-19 vaccines,” Desai told Reuters. He added that he wasn’t aware of increase in SPS cases since COVID-19 vaccination efforts began – noting it may also be too early to notice any pattern.
Newsome, also Associate Professor of Neurology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, echoed this: “The short answer is, there is no data or evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine causes Stiff Person Syndrome. This is also the case for other vaccines.”
Likewise, Richard Nowak, a neurologist at Yale Medicine told Reuters he was not “personally aware of any cases linking covid19 vaccination to stiff person syndrome.”
Some users making this claim link to a document listing the syndrome among the “LIST OF ADVERSE EVENTS OF SPECIAL INTEREST” of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (here).
This list, however, was compiled using various national reporting systems that are voluntary, such as the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) (here). These reports are unconfirmed and do not prove causality until investigated further by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (here) (here).
The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine that the CDC has confirmed or is investigating can be seen (here). The list does not include SPS.
Contacted by Reuters, Martha Sharan, a spokesperson for the CDC, said that “safety monitoring to date in CDC’s multiple complementary surveillance systems (VAERS, VSD, CISA, v-safe and v-safe Pregnancy Registry) has not established a causal relationship between COVID-19 vaccination and Stiff Person Syndrome” adding that the agency “continues to recommend that everyone who is eligible should get vaccinated.”
No evidence. Health experts told Reuters there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes the Stiff Person Syndrome, a rare neurological condition that Celine Dion has been diagnosed with.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .
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