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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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A life ruined by the vaccine – and a new low in the battle for compensation

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THE battle for Covid vaccine injury compensation has reached new lows. Claire Hibbs, a victim of AstraZeneca’s potentially fatal blood clotting disorder, vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), was told by a top neurologist: ‘Give yourself a pat on the back for taking one for the team.’

The professor, at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, went on to explain that all medical interventions came with risks and said: ‘There will always be a case with medication when it goes wrong.’ He then claimed to know nothing about VITT, (although he later mentioned it in his patient report) – the serious adverse reaction caused by AZ’s Covid jab which hit headlines after 14 European countries paused their rollout. He gave her a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); fatigue is often a symptom of brain injury. This allowed the government to dismiss her claim as less than 60 per cent injured by the vaccine.

The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) pay compensation to those disabled with VITT. They accepted the diagnosis of VITT made after Bedford Hospital carried out extensive tests but used CFS as one reason to reject the compensation claim. They said: ‘On the balance of probabilities, causation for CFS . . . is not accepted, though it is acknowledged that some degree of tiredness may be associated with VITT.’

Claire, 50, is married to Adam, a self-employed flooring specialist, and a mother of two adult sons. She walked into Addenbrooke’s, a major teaching hospital which specialises in neurosciences, full of hope, having waited eight long months for the appointment. Determined to find a solution to the headaches and migraines that had become daily reminders of the date she received her jab on March 31, 2021, she left the hospital in tears.

Claire said: ‘The neurologist said he had never heard of VITT and didn’t know anything about it.

‘I explained that the reason I’d been to Bedford Hospital in April 2021, a week after receiving one AstraZeneca vaccine, was because of severe headaches and that I’d been diagnosed with VITT. He shook his head and said, “No, that’s just a migraine that you went to hospital with.” He said it was absolutely nothing to do with the vaccine.

‘He would not let me speak. I wanted to shout at him that the reason all of us diagnosed with VITT went to hospital was because of the headaches and that’s why we had the tests that then showed we had VITT.’

The consultation was catastrophic on many levels, the worst being  the neurologist’s diagnosis of CFS. Claire is fatigued but has no other CFS symptoms, which are generally not diagnosed in a 15-minute appointment. Most sufferers fight for years to have the condition recognised, which happens only when all other possibilities have been ruled out.

Her original diagnosis was: ‘Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets) and portal vein (liver) thrombosis, pulmonary embolism (clot in the lung) induced by the AstraZeneca vaccine.’ She has now developed chronic liver disease due to the blood clot in her portal vein.

The VDPS received Claire’s claim in July 2021, but lost her medical notes halfway through the 18-month process. Their decision stated: ‘On the balance of probability, causation has been accepted but disablement due to vaccination is less than 60 per cent.

‘The claimant reports ongoing symptoms of extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pains, exhaustion, sleep problems, brain fog and breathlessness, portal vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism.’

By October this year, the VDPS had accepted that 243 claimants were vaccine-injured but rejected their claims because they said they did not meet their 60 per cent threshold.

Claire’s symptoms are worsening. She is confined to her home 90 per cent of the time and can no longer work. ‘I used to have my grandchildren over all the time, now I can only see them if my husband is around to help me.’

Before the life-changing jab that was supposed to allow full reintegration into society but has had the opposite effect in her  case, Claire, from Shillington, Hertfordshire, worked 12-hour days for the budget airline easyJet as an operations officer, a full-on customer-facing job dealing with daily disruptions and passenger dramas. She was ‘let go’ in February 2023 via a Zoom meeting because her bosses said they could not see a time when she would be capable of doing her job. Her company perks, such as cheap travel, were removed instantly. This was another devastating blow. ‘I loved my job,’ Claire said. ‘I’d been with easyJet for seven years and I loved the people I worked with. No two days were the same and it was a high-adrenaline job.

‘I was signed off in early April 2021 and tried to go back in June 2022. The company were really good and offered me a phased return. I started on two hours a day but could do no more than nine hours a day. Because of brain fog, my brain wouldn’t function. I felt humiliated a couple of times when I got things wrong. It’s a high-pressure job and it was clear I couldn’t do it any more.

‘Me and my husband loved to travel, and we were always hiking. We used to go to the Lake District all the time. Every couple of weeks we were doing something different. We can’t do that any more. I’ve been abroad twice but it wipes me out.

‘I don’t really see any of my friends. I had a disagreement with my best friend over the vaccine and she was of the opinion the vaccine had saved millions of lives. I felt upset because I couldn’t speak about what happened to me. I don’t have much more to speak about now because this is my life.’

I first reported Claire’s story in August 2021. She had no illnesses before receiving a jab from AstraZeneca’s batch number PW40008. Five days later, she developed blood clots in her portal vein that leads to the liver, and heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). She tested positive for the heparin-PF4 antibody usually present only with blood clots caused by the anticoagulant drug heparin. Heparin is typically used in the treatment of heart attacks. AZ victims seemed to develop HIT despite not taking heparin. She also had a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism) which caused breathlessness, and a clot in the portal vein blocking blood flow to the liver. A CT scan highlighted a low platelet count (fragments in the blood that clot and reduce or stop bleeding), and a high D-dimer protein level (fragments that the body makes when blood clots dissolve in the body.)

‘I had clots in my lungs, constant headaches, muscle, joint and neck pains, eye-twitching, and brain fog,’ Claire said. ‘I still can’t get through the day without falling asleep.’

Claire also developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ‘If there was a smell that reminded me of the hospital, I would have a panic attack. I shook and felt like I was having a heart attack. I was convinced I was getting more blood clots; I was convinced I was dying.’

Her PTSD was caused by a conversation with a doctor. Claire recalls: ‘While I was in Bedford Hospital, I asked if VITT was fatal and could I survive it. They told me that it was possible that the blood clots could travel to my brain or my heart and could cause a stroke or a heart attack. For months afterwards, any twinge, pains in my chest, or headache, I was convinced I was about to have a heart attack or a stroke. The words from that doctor kept playing over in my mind.

‘I struggled to go back to hospital. When I had appointments, somebody had to go with me, and I had to sit on the steps outside and get myself into a state where I could go in. I’d have flashbacks and panic attacks. This went on for a good year until I started seeing a psychologist, which was refused to me by my GP, but provided by the charity Thrombosis UK. It’s the same with most VITT patients, their GPs don’t provide access to talking therapy.’

The Medicine and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received Claire’s Yellow Card report but have done nothing. AstraZeneca blocked her on X after she tagged them in VITT posts and have sent her a total of ten emails asking if they can contact her GP. She replies yes, but they never have.

Claire has appealed against the VDPS decision but feels justice is elusive. If she had the chance she would tell Baroness Hallett, who is conducting the current Covid Inquiry: ‘Why is this being hidden? It means other doctors can’t access the information. Why can we not publicise this because it is causing mental health issues beyond anything I thought possible? Why is it being covered up? How has it helped the government by covering it up and destroying us?’

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Sally Beck
Sally Beck
Sally Beck is a freelance journalist with 30 years of experience in writing for national newspapers and magazines. She has reported on vaccines since the controversy began with the MMR in 1998.

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