Definitive link between Ramsay Hunt syndrome and COVID-19 vaccines has not been established

Definitive link between Ramsay Hunt syndrome and COVID-19 vaccines has not been established

Definitive link between Ramsay Hunt syndrome and COVID-19 vaccines has not been established

(Reuters) - Social media users have been speculating as to whether Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS), a rare neurological disorder, is caused by COVID-19 vaccines, after Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber revealed he had been diagnosed with the condition. While the disorder is not directly caused by COVID-19 vaccines, experts told Reuters that research of a possible link between the two has been carried out. No definitive link has been established to date.

Bieber uploaded a video to Instagram on June 10, 2022, and told fans that he had to cancel upcoming concerts due to an RHS diagnosis that left half of his face paralyzed (here).

The syndrome is caused by a reactivation in the body of the Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV), Gerald Evans, Chair of the Division of Infectious Disease and Professor of Medicine, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and Pathology and Molecular Medicine at Queen’s University told Reuters.

It is the same virus that causes shingles and chickenpox, and it can be reactivated in rare cases after a period of lying dormant in the body, causing RHS.

RHS can cause ear pain, a vesicular rash near the ear canal, and loss of motor function leading to one-sided facial paralysis (here), (here).

The majority of people who receive early treatment will make a full recovery. Reuters has further reported on the condition here .

Social media users have since speculated that the cause of Bieber’s RHS is a COVID-19 vaccine, despite his unknown vaccination status. A spokesperson for the singer did not respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.

One user said on Twitter: “everybody pretending Justin bieber isn’t vaccine injured the denial is way too deep” (here).

Another said: “Anyone who thinks that Justin Bieber’s facial paralysis is due to anything other than the vaccine is an absolute thundering baboon”.

The writer of one Substack article, shared widely on social media, claims to be 99% certain that Bieber’s case of RHS was caused by a COVID-19 vaccine (

In separate emails to Reuters, multiple experts said there has indeed been research conducted into a possible connection between RHS and COVID-19 vaccines – so far inconclusive.

No definitive link has been established to date between the syndrome and COVID-19 vaccines, Waleed Javaid, Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at the Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said.

Evans, of Queen’s University, added that any suggestion of a link “is speculative”, and that it was likely many episodes that simply coincided with vaccine administration but, in fact, were not caused by it.


According to experts at Meedan Health Desk, a group of public health scientists working to counter misinformation, there have been “a handful” of case reports about individuals who developed RHS following a COVID-19 vaccine.

The most prominent case, cited widely on social media, is from the University of Hong Kong in 2021. It details the experience of a 37-year-old man diagnosed with RHS two days after receiving a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (here).

Reuters spoke with Oscar Chou, a co-author of the paper and a researcher at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Medicine, who said that while the study could point to “a possible association on an individual level”, much more research and larger studies would be needed.
“As such, our research provides a ‘probable’ association, according to the WHO modified criteria (here), but cannot infer a definitive causation relationship between Ramsay Hunt syndrome and COVID-19 vaccines”.

Further to this, other published studies show conflicting results. Three of them, (here), (here), (here), reported a higher incidence of shingles following vaccination, while other retrospective cohorts reported that there was no significant difference in reactivation of the VZV upon vaccination (here), (here).

“As such, post-COVID-19 vaccine herpes zoster may be a rare adverse effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, although the evidence is still inconsistent. Future studies that compare the risks of shingles after COVID-19 infection and COVID-19 vaccination are also needed,” Chou said.


Missing context. Experts who spoke to Reuters said that current research has not established a definitive link between Ramsay Hunt syndrome and COVID-19 vaccines.