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Risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after seasonal influenza vaccination and influenza health-care encounters: a self-controlled study

Kwong JC, Vasa PP, Campitelli MA, Hawken S, Wilson K, Rosella LC, Stukel TA, Crowcroft NS, McGeer AJ, Zinman L, Deeks SL. Lancet. 2013; 13(9):769-76. Epub 2013 Jun 28.


Background — The possible risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome from influenza vaccines remains a potential obstacle to achieving high vaccination coverage. However, influenza infection might also be associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome. The researchers aimed to assess the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after seasonal influenza vaccination and after influenza-coded health-care encounters.

Methods — The researchers used the self-controlled risk interval design and linked universal health-care system databases from Ontario, Canada, with data obtained between 1993 and 2011. The researchers used physician billing claims for influenza vaccination and influenza-coded health-care encounters to ascertain exposures. Using fixed-effects conditional Poisson regression, the researchers estimated the relative incidence of hospitalisation for primary-coded Guillain-Barré syndrome during the risk interval compared with the control interval.

Findings — The researchers identified 2831 incident admissions for Guillain-Barré syndrome; 330 received an influenza vaccine and 109 had an influenza-coded health-care encounter within 42 weeks before hospitalisation. The risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of vaccination was 52% higher than in the control interval of 9–42 weeks (relative incidence 1.52; 95% CI 1.17–1.99), with the greatest risk during weeks 2–4 after vaccination. The risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of an influenza-coded health-care encounter was greater than for vaccination (15.81; 10.28–24.32). The attributable risks were 1.03 Guillain-Barré syndrome admissions per million vaccinations, compared with 17.2 Guillain-Barré syndrome admissions per million influenza-coded health-care encounters.

Interpretation — The relative and attributable risks of Guillain-Barré syndrome after seasonal influenza vaccination are lower than those after influenza illness. Patients considering immunisation should be fully informed of the risks of Guillain-Barré syndrome from both influenza vaccines and influenza illness.

Keywords: Vaccination Neurological disorders

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