Not Real News

Medical staff and volunteers prepare shots of the COVID-19 vaccine a vaccination center in Ramsgate, England, in 2021. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming a photo of a poster distributed by the National Health Service in England warning that COVID-19 vaccines cause Bell’s palsy.

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

THE FACTS: Any such poster was not issued by the NHS, the public health service confirmed to The Associated Press. Social media users shared a photo of what they claim is an official poster warning that COVID-19 vaccines cause Bell’s palsy. 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 were displayed near London’s Heathrow Airport, according to the posts online. The NHS said Tuesday that it was not responsible for the poster. 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 on its website that “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.

— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this report.