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GBS After Flu Shot & Other Vaccines

Guillain-Barre Syndrome ("GBS") can occur following the administration of a vaccine such as the flu shot. If you have experienced Guillain-Barre Syndrome from a flu shot or Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (“CIDP”) from another vaccine, you may be entitled to compensation through a special federal trust fund called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Our vaccine injury law firm has represented hundreds of clients suffering from GBS after flu shot or other vaccines. Our fees are paid through the program, not by our clients. 


What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre Syndrome, commonly referred to as GBS, is a disease that affects the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system (i.e. the brain and spinal cord) to the arms, legs, and internal organs. The peripheral nerves are found throughout the torso and limbs.

The fibers of the nerves are protected by an insulating layer of proteins and fats called myelin. An attack on the myelin usually results in its periodical loss. When the myelin is lost, the nerve fibers become unprotected. Subsequently, the unprotected nerve fibers may then become damaged.

Because these peripheral nerve fibers are responsible for carrying signals from the brain to the limbs, this damage can lead to decreased sensation, numbness, tingling, weakness, and/or paralysis in the limbs. Often, Guillain-Barre Syndrome symptoms will start in the legs and progress up through the body to the head and arms. Other GBS symptoms include facial paralysis, respiratory difficulty, and vision problems.


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Can the flu shot cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system essentially malfunctions causing the immune system to attack necessary and normal parts of the body. In the case of GBS, the cause of this autoimmune response is usually a foreign infection. The flu shot is one such foreign infection that can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome, causing GBS to be one of the most common injuries in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.


What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

The initial symptoms after GBS from a flu shot or another vaccine are typically weakness and tingling in your hands and feet. These symptoms can quickly spread in an ascending fashion, meaning that it travels up the limbs from fingers and toes towards the torso. As Guillain-Barre syndrome progresses, muscle weakness can evolve into paralysis. The mayo clinic also lists the following symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome:

  • prickling, pins and needles sensations in your fingers, toes, ankles or wrists;
  • weakness in your legs that spreads to your upper body;
  • unsteady walking or inability to walk or climb stairs;
  • difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing;
  • double vision or inability to move eyes;
  • severe pain that may feel achy, shooting or cramp-like and may be worse at night;
  • difficulty with bladder control or bowel function;
  • rapid heart rate;
  • low or high blood pressure;
  • difficulty breathing.

People with Guillain-Barre Syndrome usually experience their most significant weakness within two weeks after symptoms begin.


Types of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Once thought to be a single disorder, Guillain-Barre Syndrome is now known to occur in several forms. The main types are:

  • Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy ("AIDP"), the most common form in North America and Europe. The most common sign of AIDP is muscle weakness that starts in the lower part of your body and spreads upward.
  • Miller Fisher syndrome ("MFS"), in which paralysis starts in the eyes. MFS is also associated with unsteady gait. MFS is less common in the U.S. but more common in Asia.

Acute motor axonal neuropathy ("AMAN") and acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) are less common in the U.S. But AMAN and AMSAN are more frequent in China, Japan and Mexico.


Guillain-Barre Syndrome Treatment and Recovery

To diagnose GBS, the treating doctor will usually prescribe an Electromyogram ("EMG") to test the functioning of the nerves and a spinal tap to test the spinal fluid for infection. In severe cases, the patient may suffer from paralysis in their diaphragm which would make respiratory assistance through intubation necessary.

While there is no currently no cure for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, there two types of treatments which can speed recovery and reduce the severity of symptoms:

  • Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis), the liquid portion of part of your blood (plasma) is removed and separated from your blood cells. The blood cells are then put back into your body, which manufactures more plasma to make up for what was removed. Plasmapheresis may work by ridding plasma of certain antibodies that contribute to the immune system's attack on the peripheral nerves.
  • Intravenous Immunoglobulin therapy (IVIG), immunoglobulin containing healthy antibodies from blood donors is supplied intravenously. High doses of immunoglobulin can block the damaging antibodies that may contribute to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

You may also be given medication to relieve pain and prevent blood clots which can happen when you’re immobile. Once a certain level of functioning is achieved, the patient will likely be prescribed physical therapy. Your care may include:

  • movement of your arms and legs by caregivers to help keep muscle movement;
  • physical therapy during recovery to regain strength and motor function;
  • training with adaptive devices, such as a wheelchair or braces, to give you mobility and self-care skills.


Read a Guillain-Barre Syndrome Case Report: $93,322.98 for a Connecticut man who suffered from Guillain-Barre Syndrome after a TDaP shot.


GBS After Flu Vaccine, TdAp, or other Vaccines can receive compensation

If you received a flu shot or another vaccine and were diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, you may qualify for compensation from a government fund called the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Contact our vaccine injury lawyers for a free consultation.


Page last reviewed and updated: November 22, 2020

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