Emergent peer-reviewed studies have highlighted the occurrence of neuromyelitis optica after COVID-19 vaccinations, suggesting that the autoimmune disease may be occurring as a vaccine adverse event.
The studies’ general findings indicate an occurrence of neuromyelitis optica (NMO) in healthy individuals within around two weeks after Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines. In patients already affected by the disease or a similar neurological autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis, an exacerbation of symptoms or relapse was observed.
So far, at least six cases of NMO occurring after COVID-19 vaccination have been reported in case studies around the world. Though some individuals made a full recovery, some were discharged with long-term medications or unresolved symptoms.
Neuromyelitis optica is a rare autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the spinal cord and the nerves in the eyes. Though there is no cure, treatment can prevent future relapses that will do further damage to nerves.
While the cause of the disease is unknown, it is usually triggered by an infection or another autoimmune disease. It can affect anyone at any age, though it is more common in women than in men.
The 5-year survival rate for single attack NMO is 90 percent if treated, and for relapsing (more than one attack) NMO, it is nearly 70 percent.
Symptoms include pain in the eyes, loss of vision, paralysis, weakness or pain in the arms and legs, bladder and bowel problems as well as uncontrollable vomiting and hiccups.
Adverse events are medical occurrences, generally developing within 28 days after vaccination. According to the World Health Organization, “any untoward medical occurrence which follows immunization,” even one not caused by the vaccine, would be considered an adverse event.
Neuromyelitis Optica Occurring After Pfizer Vaccines
Two studies, one in Turkey and one in Germany suggested that the Pfizer vaccination may have been the trigger for the NMO disorder. The two women affected developed NMO symptoms within 24 hours and 23 days, respectively, after getting the vaccine.
By Marina Zhang