Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Man fights for vaccine exemption after terrible eight weeks after first dose

An Auckland man is questioning why his temporary vaccination exemption, supported by his GP and a cardiologist, was shot down by the Ministry of Health.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being classed an anti-vaxxer, is seeking an urgent reversal of the decision as he consults on the safety of getting a second dose after a “terrible” eight weeks following his first.

“If I wasn’t prioritising my health, I could be coerced into [getting the second dose] and just take the risk,” he said.

“For me, it’s about getting back to normal health as a priority.”

A ministry spokesperson acknowledged the man’s desired outcome hadn’t been achieved but wouldn’t comment further, saying it was inappropriate to comment publicly on a person’s medical circumstances.

Wiremu (not his real name) received his first Covid vaccine on October 3. He later experienced significant changes to his health, including a 40 per cent increase in his resting heart rate to more than 90 beats per minute and loss of mobility through muscular inflammation, which persists to this day.

Concerned, Wiremu visited hospital twice on October 15 and 16. On the second occasion, the doctor noted Wiremu’s symptoms were “highly unlikely to be vaccine-related” and he should feel confident in getting his second dose.

Through conversations with his GP, Wiremu was referred to a cardiologist whom he saw in November.

After an electrocardiograph (ECG) and echocardiogram returned normal results, Wiremu was advised it was possible he developed myocarditis – inflammation of the heart wall’s middle layer – after his first vaccine dose.

Of the 103 deaths reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) following vaccination, one was likely due to vaccine-induced myocarditis (awaiting Coroner’s determination).

The cardiologist, in a letter to Wiremu’s GP, said it was “by no means certain” he had developed myocarditis, but he arranged an MRI for Wiremu for further evaluation and to indicate when would be appropriate to receive his second dose.

At the end of November, Wiremu’s GP applied for a Covid-19 Vaccine Temporary Medical Exemption – along with transcripts from Wiremu’s hospital visits and the cardiologist’s letter.

Only a person’s medical or nurse practitioner could apply for an exemption on behalf of their patient. Exemptions were decided on by a panel including medical and nurse practitioners and a Māori health leader.

The Ministry of Health’s exemption criteria stated there were “very few” situations where vaccination would not be recommended.

One of the criteria for exemption was “myocarditis/pericarditis following the first dose of the vaccine”.

On December 22, Wiremu received a response from director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield who had declined his application.

“I am not satisfied, based on the evidence or other information provided, that you meet the specified Covid-19 vaccination exemption criteria,” Bloomfield said.

No further context was given as to why the application was declined.

The next day, Wiremu – through legal representation – sent a letter requesting a review of the decision.

“Our client supports the general vaccine rollout but as a father of a young family and as the primary financial provider, it would be a tragic situation if a similar or worse medical episode were to occur as a result of his further participation at this point in time,” the letter read.

“Our client has continued to receive medical evaluation and support and is presently awaiting the outcome of the cardiac MRI report. In the meantime, he has been advised by his cardiologist not to receive further vaccination until his symptoms completely disappeared.

“It is in light of these circumstances, and the need for our client to continue to participate in society, whether in the workplace, activities with his children or in normal day-to-day life, that we request this application be reassessed.”

Wiremu said being in such limbo had frustrated and disillusioned him.

“I’ve just accepted that it’s broken, the system, and there’s not much I can do about it other than prioritise my health,” he said.

He reinforced he was not an anti-vaxxer, but simply wanted to avoid another “terrible” eight weeks after the second dose.

Wiremu, who suffered from pericarditis 11 years ago, questioned how his application could be declined considering two medical professionals had supported it.

“I’d just like to understand who is deciding and how do their credentials line up against the application credentials and what’s the difference in stance.”

The Ministry spokesperson said each application was considered on its merits and in light of supporting evidence.

All decisions were final but should new information come to light, applicants could reapply.

The spokesperson encouraged people to consult their primary care practitioner if they had questions or concerns about vaccination.

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