Canadian Ross Wightman was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome shortly after his first dose of AstraZeneca’s covid vaccine. Wightman will receive payment for vaccine injuries, and says, it does not match the physical and emotional suffering and financial impact he has faced over the past year.
Wightman, who worked as a pilot and real estate agent before his diagnosis, has been unable to work for the past year.
The letter Wightman received from the Vaccine Injury Support Program (VISP) makes him one of the few Canadians approved for a covid vaccine injury benefit.
The program’s medical staff determined a likely causal association between AstraZeneca’s covid vaccine and the injuries.
The letter confirmed something he says he knew all along: that his condition was probably caused by AstraZeneca’s covid vaccine.
Wightman did not disclose the amount of the compensation citing privacy concerns, but said the maximum payment under the program is about $284,000 and the approved amount is less.
“I don’t know what amount I can say would be sufficient, but [the payment] is not something I’m very excited about,” he said. “The income replacement won’t be what we’re used to … so it’s a little disappointing to me.”
Wightman is seeking legal counsel and plans to appeal to the program’s medical review board. According to him, several of his symptoms, including loss of sensation in his feet and visual impairments, were not included in his injury benefits assessment. He also has limited capacity in his arms and wrists.
Before the pandemic, Canada was the only G7 country that did not have a vaccine injury compensation program. The country’s mass immunization plan spurred the development of VISP, explained Dr. Kumanan Wilson, a physician at Ottawa Hospital.
“We told people they needed to get vaccinated, and in many cases mandates were issued,” Wilson told CBC. “We needed to keep our end of the bargain, and that was to make sure that these individuals were treated fairly if something unpleasant happened.”
“I’m a big believer in the safety of vaccines. They go through rigorous phase three testing, but rare events can happen, and in those circumstances, these individuals need to be supported,” he added.
Wilson said there were challenges early on in the development of the program determining what should be considered a serious disease that is associated with a vaccine. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) was among the disorders discussed, as it comes with severe health challenges that can often be overcome only after a few years.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was largely discontinued in Canada after blood clots appeared in recipients at a rate of about one case in 100,000 doses.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a severe autoimmune disease in which the immune system itself starts attacking nerve cells, leading to inflammation in the nerves, and consequently weakness, tingling in the legs and arms, loss of sensation, changes in blood pressure, palpitations, and muscle paralysis, which can be fatal as it can interfere with the ability to move respiratory muscles.
In about two-thirds of people with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, symptoms begin about five days to three weeks after a mild infection, surgery, or after an immunization.
The symptoms usually start in both legs, then move up the arms – occasionally they start in the arms or head and move down – and include weakness and a tingling sensation or loss of feeling.
The weakness is more evident than the abnormal sensation. Reflexes are diminished or absent.
In 90% of people with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, the weakness is most severe three to four weeks after the onset of symptoms. In 5 to 10 percent, the muscles that control breathing become so weak that mechanical ventilation is necessary.
When the disease is severe, the muscles of the face and swallowing become weak in more than half of those affected. When these muscles are weak, people may choke when eating or become dehydrated and malnourished.
If the disease is very severe, internal functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system can be impaired. For example, the blood pressure may fluctuate widely, the heart rate may become abnormal, the person may retain urine, and severe constipation may occur.