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NHS didn’t create poster claiming COVID-19 causes Bell’s palsy

January 18, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: A photo shows a poster distributed by the National Health Service in England warning that COVID-19 vaccines cause Bell’s palsy.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Any such poster was not issued by the NHS, the public health service confirmed to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing an image of what they claim is an official poster from England’s public health service warning that COVID-19 vaccines cause Bell’s palsy. However, the NHS said Tuesday that it was not responsible for the poster.

The poster includes the NHS logo and a photo of a girl, who appears to have facial paralysis. It reads, “Public Health Warning” at the top, and says below that the COVID-19 vaccine causes Bell’s palsy, a condition where there is a weakness or paralysis to one side of the face.

Photos of the unauthorized poster online said it had been posted near London’s Heathrow Airport.

The Department of Health and Social Care in England, which funds and oversees health agencies, also confirmed to the AP that the poster did not come from the NHS.

Scientists studying COVID-19 vaccines have not found any links between the inoculation and Bell’s palsy.

During the trial phase of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the company reported four cases of Bell’s palsy. But experts say the number of cases in the trial were consistent with the levels reported in the general population. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “available data were insufficient for FDA to conclude that these cases were causally related to vaccination.”

The photo of the girl used in the posters can be found on several stock image websites with the caption “Bell’s palsy.” The BBC featured the photo in 2013 in a first-hand account about a BBC reporter’s recovery process from the condition.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.