- AstraZeneca vaccine linked with ‘spike’ in cases of rare disease that can paralyse victims
As studies report a rise ‘attributable to the Covid jab, The Telegraph, my British newspaper of choice, spoke to people who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome after vaccination
Investigations team8 December 2023 • 7:19pm
Anthony Shingler was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome after having the AstraZeneca vaccine CREDIT: PAUL COOPER FOR THE TELEGRAPH
Scientists have drawn a link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and a “spike” in cases of a rare disease that can leave its victims paralysed.
Three separate studies reported an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) shortly after the roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
GBS is a potentially deadly condition in which a person’s immune system attacks their nerves and gradually paralyses victims from the feet upwards. While most patients recover, it can be life-threatening or permanently debilitating.
Two of the studies looked at rates of GBS in England and said there was an increase in cases “attributable to” the AstraZeneca vaccine, or that there was a probable “causal link”.
The Telegraph has spoken to several people who developed GBS after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, and have become severely disabled as a result.
Two of the individuals have been awarded payments through the Government’s Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme but the third has been refused compensation on the basis that he is not “60 percent disabled” – the threshold for a pay-out.
On Friday, one of the victims spoke of his “anger” that he had the AstraZeneca jab without knowing that it posed such a risk.
‘Side effects ignored’
Anthony Shingler said: “It feels like the side effects were either missed or ignored.”
In one of the studies, researchers studied NHS data and found that the rate of GBS was lower than usual for most of the pandemic – but that it shot up to well above normal levels in March and April 2021 – after the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out had got under way.
More than a quarter of people who developed GBS in England in the first 10 months of 2021 did so within six weeks of having the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the paper by scientists at University College London and researchers at the UK’s medicines watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
The researchers stressed that the risk of GBS was “very small” in proportion to the benefits that Covid vaccines offered. For every million doses of the jab that were administered, there were fewer than six extra cases of GBS, according to the study.
However, the scale of the vaccination programme meant that by July 8 2021, there were between 98 and 140 “excess” cases of GBS in England that researchers said could be “attributable to” the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The authors of the paper, titled Covid-19 vaccination and Guillain-Barre syndrome: analyses using the National Immunoglobulin Database, compared the rate of GBS linked to the AstraZeneca jab to the rate linked to the swine flu jab, which became a huge controversy in America in the 1970s.
The US government ended up having to halt the swine flu vaccination programme, when fewer than a fifth of the population had been jabbed, after 500 Americans developed GBS and 25 died of it.
At the same time, the vaccine did not offer the sorts of benefits as the Covid vaccines because the swine flu pandemic that many scientists had predicted did not materialise as expected.
The researchers said: “The excess incidence is estimated to be 5.8 cases per million doses, similar to the estimates for the 1976 ‘swine flu’ vaccine and higher (but within the same order of magnitude) as the reported excess cases for the modern influenza and yellow fever vaccines.”
Of the 659 people who got GBS in England between January 1 and November 7 2021, 198 had been vaccinated against Covid within the previous six weeks.
‘Evidence appears to support a causal link’
The vast majority of those – 176 – had received the AstraZeneca jab. Only one GBS victim had received the Moderna vaccination, and 21 had received the Pfizer jab.
“These data suggested a clear and plausible excess of GBS cases occurring within 42 days after the first dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 COVID-19 vaccination,” the study said – using the scientific name for the AstraZeneca jab.
A separate paper published by scientists at the University of Liverpool found that of 67 people who developed GBS after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, the jab probably caused the illness in 80 per cent of cases, and possibly caused it in 17 per cent.
They said that while they could not “confirm or refute” causation, the evidence appeared to “support a causal link”.
A third study by scientists in Victoria, Australia observed a similar spike in GBS cases following the AstraZeneca vaccine. The study looked at all Covid vaccines but found that the AstraZeneca one was the only jab that coincided with an increase in GBS cases above the usual “background rate”.
Case study: Anthony Shingler
Anthony Shingler uses a mobility scooter to get about, and his hands are fused in a fixed position CREDIT: Paul Cooper for The Telegraph
Before the pandemic, Anthony Shingler was a strong and active man working 60-hour weeks in the security industry. But during his time off he liked nothing better than to take trips with his family.
In 2018, he and his wife Nicola climbed Snowdonia together, and in 2020 they took their children and grandchildren on holiday to Cornwall. They enjoyed walking along the cliffs and exploring hidden beaches together, while Mr Shingler “messed around” with some amateur photography.
The 60-year-old is in a very different position now. These days, he uses a mobility scooter to get about, and his hands are fused in a fixed position. He no longer has the dexterity to operate a camera – or even manipulate a knife and fork. He has to have his food cut up for him.
Speaking from his home in Stoke-on-Trent, Mr Shingler still comes across as a jovial character. But his voice wavers as he explains: “I feel such a burden.”
Everything changed for the family on March 5 2021 when Mr Shingler received the AstraZeneca vaccination against Covid-19.
Like many people, he experienced mild symptoms the following day. But unlike most others – whose symptoms improved – Mr Shingler’s got substantially worse. Over the course of two weeks, he developed a heavy feeling in his legs, and pins and needles in his hands, feet and lower lip.
He became so unsteady on his feet that his wife had to collect him from work. By this point, they were hugely concerned and sought medical help. But according to Mrs Shingler, he was sent home twice from Royal Stoke University Hospital in Staffordshire – with one doctor putting his symptoms down to an allergic reaction, and another diagnosing him with sciatica.
Paralysed from the waist down
On March 22, Mr Shingler woke up paralysed from the waist down and returned to hospital for a third time. This time he was admitted to the neurology ward, where he was subjected to tests and “intravenous immunoglobulin” treatment, before being rushed to intensive care.
He had been diagnosed with GBS which can cause paralysis, sometimes including problems swallowing and breathing.
Mrs Shingler’s voice cracks as she recalls this time. Covid restrictions meant that she was not allowed to accompany him and they had to say their goodbyes over FaceTime, not knowing if Anthony would survive. She also found it hard to get information. At some point, she says, a doctor suggested to Mr Shingler that he was having a reaction to a vaccine.
But when she raised this issue with another doctor on the phone, she says he became irate and lectured her.
“He began to shout at me about people dying of Covid.”
“At this point I said, ‘look doctor, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this because right now my husband needs help’.”
In the end, Anthony stayed in ICU for eight and a half months. He was finally discharged from hospital in May last year – with papers stating that the “primary admission diagnosis” was “respiratory failure secondary to guillian barre syndrome [sic] following the astra Zeneca [sic] covid 19 vaccination”.
The following month, he was awarded a £120,000 payout from the Government’s Vaccine Damage Compensation Scheme – given to people who are deemed at least “60 per cent disabled” by vaccine injury.
Whilst it has helped pay for the couple to adapt their bathroom and make up for some of Mr Shingler’s lost earnings – he is still struggling with his new life.
They returned to Cornwall for the first time a few months ago, but cut the trip short after two days because so many of the places and activities that he used to love are now inaccessible.
“It’s the frustration that makes you depressed. What you can’t do, and what you used to do. Simple tasks, like taking the washing basket down… even tightening screws up,” he says. “I can’t go kicking a football with my grandson – and he loves football.”
“Nickie doesn’t deserve how I am now.”
Case Study: Paul Scrivener
Paul Scrivener, with his wife Jane, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome on his third hospital visit and rushed to intensive care CREDIT: David Rose for The Telegraph
Paul Scrivener, 52, began experiencing strange symptoms in April 2021, eighteen days after being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I had breathing issues,” he told The Telegraph, “I was struggling with swallowing drinks and my feet and hands had gone numb and tingly”.
Like many men his age, the safety manager from Biggin Hill, Kent, had initially tried to ignore these warning signs about his health.
“Basically, I was keeping it from the wife,” he admitted. But when he went to bed one night “absolutely struggling to breathe”, Jane Scrivener insisted they seek medical help.
It was only on his third hospital trip that a doctor recognised the symptoms of GBS. Unable to walk and with just a tenth of his normal lung capacity, he was rushed to intensive care.
“They were going to put me in a coma if it got any worse,” he says. Fortunately, he was treated with antibody transfusions which worked “miraculously”.
Interested doctors wrote up a case report titled “A rare complication: Guillain-Barre syndrome following Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination” and sent it to the British Medical Journal.
Despite the seriousness of what had happened to him, Mr Scrivener was eager to leave hospital care. As soon as he was moved to a general ward, he set an alarm to practice walking every half hour, and “managed to convince” staff to discharge him in May.
“That was actually a big mistake,” he says.
He still couldn’t walk and was reliant on a wheelchair. A month later, he began suffering from facial palsy. “I had trouble breathing because all my face dropped,” he says.
Numbness and tingling
That summer, tests showed that the nerves in his arms and legs were still stripped of their protective coating, leaving Mr Scrivener with numbness and tingling.
Neurorehabilitation helped him improve enough to restart his work as a fire safety manager from home, but recovery has been slow and in December 2021 he was still using crutches.
Mr Scrivener tries to keep a brave face, but there are “lots of things he can’t do anymore”, says his wife.
He cannot walk downstairs unaided. He used to be a competitive swimmer, but now cannot swim without a life jacket. GBS has also had an impact on the couple’s sexual relationship.
“You can’t quantify that in someone’s life,” says his wife. “That’s a really big issue.”
He has also lost around £15,000 in earnings.
Mr Scrivener applied to the Government’s Vaccine Damage Payment scheme for financial help, and was told that his injuries were likely to have been caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine “on the balance of probabilities”.
However, the scheme’s medical assessors said he was ineligible for payment on the grounds that “disablement due to vaccination is less than 60 per cent”.
“It’s just a further kick in the teeth really,” Mr Scrivener reflects. “I did what they asked. I was one of the first to go out and have the vaccine, as they wanted everybody to.”