A Lake Country man who suffered an adverse reaction after receiving his first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine says he feels the provincial and federal government are letting people like him down.
Ross Wightman, 40, was the picture of health before getting his first shot on April 1. Since then, he has spent 67 days in hospital and has been diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome.
While he can't conclusively pin his condition on the vaccine and doesn't consider himself an anti-vaxxer, Wightman says those like him who have suffered adverse effects "are collateral damage" to governments, and he would like to see more transparency around potential side-effects.
"The lack of recognition or admission of adverse effects is a clear indication that politics come before people," Wightman said in an email to Castanet.
Wightman says when his age group came up for the vaccine, he considered it "a no brainer, as we were told they (vaccines) were safe and would be the way out of this pandemic."
Ten days later, he woke up with excruciating back pain.
After four days of that, he went to the ER at Kelowna General Hospital and was given pain medication. He next went to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and was again given pain meds.
Over the next few days, he would develop facial paralysis and was admitted to VJH, where a neurologist diagnosed him with Guillain Barre, an auto immune response that affects the nervous system.
"Four days after being admitted, I woke up paralyzed from the waist down, and was void of facial expressions due to paralysis," says Wightman.
Still, he was lucky he received a quick diagnosis, as GBS can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Wightman says he slowly got weaker and was transferred to KGH on April 16. From there, he was sent to rehab for 10 days and was discharged June 1.
But he ended up being readmitted June 10 and wouldn't finally get out of the hospital until July 31, after undergoing a multi-day plasma exchange.
Along the way, he would lose 40 pounds and was only able to walk with a walker and orthotics.
"My wife was terrified," he said, but to Wightman the whole ordeal has been "surreal."
He's slowly getting better and no longer needs the walker, but still has weakness and limited hand and feet movement. He continues to go to physiotherapy three times a week as well as hydrotherapy.
Wightman says he's "nowhere near normal yet," and is still quite tipsy.
He says he knew there was the chance of rare side-effects with the vaccine, but that "no one ever thinks it will happen to them."
Since then, he's learned of others with reactions, but isn't against vaccines. Rather, he wants to see more government transparency about cases that have happened.
"My doctors all said there could be no other cause or that it was very highly correlated, but no one is willing to put their neck out and write that in a report," he said.
A public health report on his case was sent to the medical health officer.
It stated that the reaction could neither be proven nor disproven, and that he should continue to be vaccinated.
Wightman says he has ignored that advice, but that his wife is fully vaccinated and suffered no ill effects.
He was also denied a vaccine passport exemption.
"My intention is not to fuel anti-vax sentiments ... I just want people to know what can happen."
The BCCDC website acknowledges rare side-effects can happen and that "vaccine safety is continuously monitored to identify any serious adverse events."
It says there is always a small chance of side-effects, for any medication or vaccine.
The BCCDC reports that have been ten reports of people being hospitalized Guillain-Barre after COVID-19 vaccination. Four of these reports followed AstraZeneca vaccine, five followed Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty, and one followed Moderna Spikevax
Rare side-effects may include myocarditis or inflammation of the heart, and blood clots.