Covid-19 vaccines are not associated with developing neurodegenerative diseases

24 January 2022
What was claimed

Covid-19 vaccines could cause neurodegenerative diseases in young people.

Our verdict

The MHRA has told Full Fact there is “no credible evidence” of an association between the Covid-19 vaccines and neurodegenerative diseases.

An Instagram post shares the headline of an online article which claims: “COVID [sic] Shots Could Cause ‘Crippling’ Neurodegenerative Disease in Young People, MIT Scientist Warns”. There is no evidence to support this.

The article quotes Dr Stephanie Seneff, a senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in America, as telling Fox News that giving young people Covid-19 vaccines will be likely to cause an “alarming increase in several major neurodegenerative diseases”.

The article then links to Dr Seneff’s blog post, which suggests the vaccines could bring about neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsons, prion disease neurodegenerative disorders like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Huntington’s disease. The blog summary says that the Covid vaccines “may” be a pathway to “crippling disease sometime in the future”. 

However, Dr Alison Cave, chief safety officer at the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told Full Fact: “The safety of the public always comes first. We continuously monitor all suspected side effects reported to us following COVID-19 vaccination.

“There is no credible evidence that the Covid-19 vaccines are associated with the development of prion-related disease or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s”. 

The MHRA’s Yellow Card Scheme allows members of the public and health care professionals to report any possible side effects that have occured after use of a medication, medical device or vaccination. 

There have been over 52 million first vaccine doses given so far in the UK. Across the three Covid-19 vaccines currently in use in the UK there have been 23 yellow cards which reported Parkinson's disease and one for Alzheimer’s (although there are more for other types of dementia). There have been no reports regarding Huntington’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, although there have been 12 for motor neurone disease more broadly. 

However, the MHRA makes clear that the nature of  the system means that reported events are not necessarily proven side effects—some events may have happened anyway, regardless of vaccination, particularly as the vaccination of older and more vulnerable people has been prioritised.

Concerns that the mRNA vaccines in particular, may cause neurodegenerative diseases have been widely shared on social media during the pandemic. Similar claims have previously been written about by fact checkers AFP, Reuters and USA Today

AFP has fact checked a different article, which made similar claims. Dr Neil Cashman, professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia, told AFP: “There is absolutely no evidence that RNA vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) can promote risk of neurodegeneration in humans or test animals”. 

Image courtesy of Daniel Schludi, via unsplash.

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