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No record of registered nurse who claims Bell’s palsy after vaccine

December 31, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: A registered nurse named Khalilah Mitchell in Nashville, Tennessee, received the COVID-19 vaccine and developed Bell’s palsy because of it.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed to The Associated Press that there is no record of a registered nurse under that name. Though four people in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial and three people in the Moderna trial who received vaccines reported Bell’s palsy, a disorder that causes paralysis on one side of the face and is temporary for most people, at this time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not established a link between the vaccines and the condition.

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THE FACTS: Last week, a video began circulating on social media of a woman who identified herself as a registered nurse named Khalilah Mitchell. In the video, the woman is sitting in a dimly lit room, wearing a face mask. She later removes the face mask to reveal what appears to be weakness in the left side of her face.

“I am a registered nurse in Nashville, Tennessee, and my name is Khalilah Mitchell,” she says in the video. “I’m reaching out to everyone about the COVID-19 vaccination. I recently took the COVID-19 vaccination...after the shot, I felt fine. But within three days, I went to the doctor because I had problems with my face -- the whole left side of my face actually. I have Bell’s palsy now.”

“Please America, they do not care about us. Do not take this vaccination,” she says.

The video was posted on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. On Dec. 25, a Facebook user reposted the video with Greek subtitles on Newtube, which was shared widely on social media.

“**Black nurse takes vaccine and this is what happens...**” a Facebook post sharing the video stated. The post had over 9,000 shares.

“Registered Nurse in Tennessee USA. Her own words only days later after receiving the .s.h.o.t. What are your thoughts on this?” another Facebook user who shared the video wrote. The post had over 3,500 shares.

But details from the video do not add up. Shelley Walker, a spokeswoman with the Tennessee Department of Health told the AP in an email, “We have no record of anyone by that name in our health professional licensure system.”

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The video provides no details as to where and who administered the vaccine, nor does she say where she works.

The Associated Press reached out to the woman on social media but did not hear back at the time of publication. On Facebook, she listed her last job as working in a bakery in Nashville. The AP could not verify that she received the vaccine.

In Tennessee, the current vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers, including in-patient providers, first responders, and staff members and residents of long-term care facilities. The vaccine is being offered through employers, health departments or hospitals, the AP reported. Nearly 80,000 people in Tennessee have been vaccinated as of Dec. 29.

“COVID-19 vaccine supplies remain limited at this time, and approved providers of the vaccine are administering it in order of priority as described in our COVID-19 Vaccination Plan,” Walker said.

While four people who received the vaccine in the Pfizer trial did report Bell’s palsy, experts say that number of cases is consistent with the general population and there is no definite link at this time suggesting the condition was caused by the vaccine. None of the participants who received the placebo reported the condition.

An FDA briefing on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine published on Dec. 10 noted that “The observed frequency of reported Bell’s palsy in the vaccine group is consistent with the expected background rate in the general population, and there is no clear basis upon which to conclude a causal relationship at this time.”

Out of 30,000 people who were part of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial, three participants who were vaccinated developed Bell’s palsy, along with one person in the placebo group. “Currently available information is insufficient to determine a causal relationship with the vaccine,” states an FDA briefing document on the Moderna vaccine.

The FDA recommends monitoring people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine for possible cases of Bell’s palsy, even though there’s no established link between the vaccine and the condition.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536