EARLIER this year, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advised that a Covid-19 vaccine should be offered to adults aged 75 years and over, residents in a care home for older adults and individuals aged six months and over who are immunosuppressed.

It seems that a growing network of people are dubious about the safety of Covid vaccines, however, as cases of long-term vaccine injury become better known.

Professional mountain biker Kyle Warner suffered a severe and long-lasting reaction after receiving his second dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 shot at age 29. A cardiologist diagnosed him with pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). He is now a lobbyist for React19, a non-profit founded by and staffed by vaccine injured Americans.

Warner wrote: “It broke my heart as I soon realised that although my injury was debilitating, it was nowhere near as devastating as the paralysed children now reliant on wheelchairs, the parents unable to care for their family as they battled injuries of their own, or even worse, the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who now had an unfillable void from the loss of their child or sibling due to heart failure.

“The vaccine companies and the government need to be held accountable for their failings.”

So just how safe are Covid vaccines? In February 2024, Vaccine published the largest vaccine safety study to date, including 99 million vaccinated people from 10 sites across eight countries.

The study confirmed previously identified rare safety signals for myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation) and pericarditis after an mRNA vaccine  - ie. Pfizer or Moderna - and Guillain-Barré syndrome and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis after viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca). It also identified two new, but very rare, side effects associated with Covid-19 vaccines—transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

It’s important to remember that these complications only came to light because of the huge scale of the study. The British Heart Foundation emphasises that although there is a link between mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and an increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis - particularly in males under 25 - the risk is still “very low”, typically 1 in 10,000.

“Research shows that Covid-19 itself is much more likely to cause myocarditis than the vaccine,” adds the charity. 

“People who are vaccinated against Covid-19 also have a much lower risk of getting other serious heart complications caused by the virus, including heart attack and stroke. That is why the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says the benefits of having the Covid-19 vaccine far outweigh the risks of not getting it for most people.”

A 2023 MHRA report concludes: “Vaccines are the best way to protect people from Covid-19 and have already saved tens of thousands of lives. Everyone should continue to get their vaccination when invited to do so unless specifically advised otherwise,” and adds: “As with all vaccines and medicines, the safety of Covid-19 vaccines is being continuously monitored.”

Back in 2021, Paul Goepfert, MD, director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic was asked by a university reporter what makes vaccine experts confident that Covid vaccines are safe in the long-term?

“Many people worry that these vaccines were rushed into use and still do not have full FDA approval,” said Goepfert. “But because we have had so many people vaccinated, we actually have far more safety data than we have had for any other vaccine, and these Covid vaccines have an incredible safety track record. There should be confidence in that.”

He also said that, unlike medications that are taken daily over a long period of time, vaccines are designed to deliver a payload and then are quickly eliminated by the body, and in virtually all cases, vaccine side effects are seen within the first two months after rollout.

Despite the impact of travel restrictions, mask-wearing and social distancing at the time, it’s easy to forget the sense of urgency engendered by the spread of Covid. At the height of the pandemic, Swansea Bay UHB’s Executive Medical Director, Dr Richard Evans described the situation as “extremely serious.”

He added: “48,000 people died from Covid in the first wave, compared with just under 400 who died from flu. Those figures speak for themselves.”

According to Worldometer data, there have been around 25 million Coronavirus cases recorded in the UK to date, and the disease has claimed over 232,000 lives. The BBC tells us that by March 1, 2024, there had been around 10,278 deaths due to Covid in Wales.

At County Hall in Haverfordwest there is a lasting tribute for Pembrokeshire loved ones lost during the pandemic and those working on the frontline. The stone, donated to the people of Pembrokeshire by Ian Harries of A & C Aggregates, features an engraved slate plaque, sponsored by the Port of Milford Haven.

At the unveiling on March 22, Council Chairman Cllr Thomas Tudor said: “We all have our own personal memories and experiences of that lockdown and the time that followed.

“Some will have sadly lost loved ones and it is those people who are at the forefront of our thoughts. Some may still be experiencing the impact of Covid on their health.

“But whatever your personal experience, none of us will ever forget that time. For some during Covid, time seemed to stop. Days merged into weeks, then months as their everyday lives came to a stop.

“For others, those we came to know as key workers, it was a time of working under the most intense pressure imaginable.

“The plaque rightly recognises those workers from all organisations and sectors that cared for us, kept us fed, kept our vital public services running and kept us safe in those often difficult days and nights. To them all I say a huge thank you for everything that you did.”

Covid-19 is now a relatively mild disease for the vast majority of people - and that’s down to an effective vaccination programme combined with naturally derived immunity in the population, according to Dr Ardiana Gjini, Executive Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB.

“This ongoing increase in population immunity allows a more targeted programme aimed at those at higher risk of developing serious Covid-19 disease,” she said.

The spring booster programme runs until June 30 with some limited flexibility into July for those who are unable to receive a booster within the main programme window because of illness.

Eligible people in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being invited to have jab between three and six months after their last dose. Anyone turning 75 years of age between April and June will be called for vaccination during the campaign.

They will be given a booster dose of a vaccine made by Pfizer or Moderna and approved in the UK. These vaccines have been updated since the original versions and target a different Covid-19 variant. These updated vaccines boost protection well, and give slightly higher levels of antibody against the more recent Omicron strains.

People are asked to wait to be contacted with an appointment, but should anyone have any questions regarding the spring booster and how to access it, contact Hywel Dda UHB’s communication hub on 0300 303 8322 or [email protected].