A Quesnel resident receives a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. (Photo credit: Cassidy Dankochik/Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

IH says COVID-19 vaccines safe despite claims of Lytton physician

Doctor makes unsubstantiated claims about serious side effects of Moderna vaccine

Interior Health (IH) 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 a letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry dated April 5, Dr. Charles Hoffe claimed that 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 that three people were exhibiting “ongoing and disabling” neurological deficits.

Hoffe also claimed that the death of a 72-year-old patient with COPD, 24 days after the man was vaccinated, was “presumed” to be vaccine-induced. The physician 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,” says Dr. Carol Fenton, Medical Health Officer with IH. In a written statement issued on April 14, Fenton says that “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.”

The statement adds that IH knows unequivocally that the vaccines are safer than COVID-19 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. With the information we have from the vaccine roll-out so far, the COVID-19 vaccines are very safe.”

Fenton tells the Journal 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,” she says. “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.”

The immunization clinics being run by IH 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,” says the statement.

“Please refer to information from trusted sources, such as ImmunizeBC [https://immunizebc.ca/node/53685], if you have questions or concerns about vaccines.”

On Wednesday, April 21, IH will be holding an online presentation about vaccine safety, the importance of being immunized against COVID-19, and a general update on COVID-19 in the Lytton/South Cariboo/Lillooet regions. Anyone interested can Dr. Carol Fenton, First Nations Health Authority Acting Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Shannon McDonald, and IH Executive Director for the Thompson Cariboo region Lisa Zetes-Zanatta for the presentation, which starts at 6:30 p.m.

Participants can join the online Zoom meeting by going to https://bit.ly/2RRVdFH. You can also join by phone by calling 1-833-955-1088 or 1-833-958-1164 (toll free) and enter meeting number 68595110891. The passcode is 637421.

If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and/or the immunization campaign, please submit them by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20 to LyttonVaccineQuestions@interiorhealth.ca.


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