Interior Health is reassuring Lytton and area residents about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines after a physician in that community shared a letter in which he claimed that the death of a Lytton resident was linked to the Moderna vaccine.
In an April 5 letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, family physician Dr. Charles Hoffe claimed there had been “numerous” allergic reactions — including two cases of anaphylaxis — among people in Lytton and area who had received the Moderna vaccine. He also claimed three people were exhibiting “ongoing and disabling” neurological deficits.
Hoffe also claimed that the death of a 72-year-old patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 24 days after the man was vaccinated, was “presumed” to be vaccine-induced.
Hoffe did not produce any evidence to prove that any of the events resulted from the vaccine.
“It has been a challenge for us to investigate this thoroughly and take reports seriously,” Dr. Carol Fenton, Interior Health’s Kamloops-based medical health officer, said in a written statement.
“There have been no deaths or lasting adverse reactions connected to the Moderna/Pfizer vaccines, or any COVID-19 vaccine, in Lytton, Interior Health or B.C. at this time,” Fenton said.
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, there have been 1.35-million doses of the four approved vaccines — AstraZeneca, Covidshield, Moderna and Pfizer — administered in B.C. as of April 17. Of those 1.35-million shots, there have been 727 reports of adverse reactions (or a rate of 1/20th of one per cent). The most frequently reported events were allergy-related and injection site pain/swelling/redness.
Of the 727 reports of adverse reactions, 37 were considerd serious. Of those 37 cases, there were 33 hospitalizations for conditions such as anaphylaxis or another allergic event, seizures, strokes, chest pain and respiratory distress. The BCCDC said there have been no deaths connected to people receiving vaccinations.
Fenton said Interior Health knows “unequivocally” that the vaccines are safer than the COVID-19 disease itself and that the vaccines have been demonstrated to be safe and effective through all levels of clinical trials.
“There is a detailed process to review all adverse effects following immunizations, and all serious events are recorded and reported to the provincial and national level to monitor for safety signals that may be missed at the local level,” Fenton said. “With the information we have from the vaccine rollout so far, the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe.”
Fenton said that while there will always be some variations between medical practitioners, when it comes to the safety of vaccines, it is important to look at consensus-based reports from those who are trained in the field.
“These people are the experts of the experts,” Fenton said. “I can answer most vaccine questions, but I don’t consider myself to be an expert in vaccines. The decisions and analyses are defined by people with the skills and expertise to parse through the information we have.”
Fenton noted the immunization clinics being run by Interior Health — including the clinics at the Tournament Capital Centre and on McArthur Island in Kamloops — have trained vaccinators on site to monitor for and respond to allergic and anaphylactic reactions, which are rare, but can occur with any vaccine or medication.
“The safety of people in Lytton, Nlaka’pamux and Northern St’at’imc Nations and all communities is the top priority and our recommendation is that all individuals should get immunized when they are eligible,” Fenton said.
She added that people should get information from trusted sources, such as ImmunizeBC, if they have questions or concerns about vaccines.