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No help, no support: censorship of Australian Covid vaccine injuries despite high AEFI rates nation-wide

ByRebekah Barnett
Lady in checkered shirt being vaccinated

The Author

Rebekah Barnett is a freelance writer and advocate for the Covid vaccine-injured. Read her work at Dystopian Down Under.

Kerryn Phelps, former federal MP and president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), suffered a “devastating” injury following her Covid vaccination. 

In a submission to the national Inquiry into Long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections (Submission #510), Dr Phelps details her injury of dysautonomia, as well as that of her wife, former school teacher Jackie Stricker-Phelps, who suffered a severe neurological reaction to her first Pfizer vaccine. Specialists have linked both women’s injuries to their Covid vaccinations and told Dr Phelps that they have seen “a lot” of patients in a similar situation.

A bottle of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
(A bottle of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine. Photo: Zoltán Bencze)

National coverage of Dr Phelp’s story marks a new level of media coverage and public awareness around Covid vaccine injury. Seemingly overnight, eye rolls and ‘anti-vax’ smears are notably absent from reporting. High-profile personalities have also stepped forward with their stories of Covid vaccine injury (Prof Gemma Carey and ABC journalist Eleni Roussos).

The new willingness of the mainstream media to openly discuss vaccine injury could not come soon enough for the growing cohort of everyday Australians suffering in the shadows. 

137,141 adverse events following immunisation (AEFIs) have been reported to the TGA from almost 64.4 million doses, which have been administered to 22,235,298 Australians over the age of five – making for an AEFI reporting rate of 0.2% per dose, or 0.6% on a per-person basis for the rollout to date – assuming one report per person (72% of adults over 16 years have received three or more doses).

Due to Covid vaccine injury censorship, only a handful of Covid vaccine injury stories made it into the news before Phelps’s revelation. The Jab Injuries Australia (JIA) Instagram page has been quietly building an archive of testimonies of victims’ life-changing AEFI experiences. 

JIA and its umbrella organisation Jab Injuries Global (JIG) were founded in September 2021 by Queenslander Matt Jordan in response to the extreme mainstream and social media censorship of vaccine injury stories that accompanied the Covid vaccine rollout. Jordan says JIA is about “giving injured Australians a voice” when no one else would. 

Scroll the JIA feed of testimonies, and strong themes emerge. Story after story, the injured repeatedly express their shock, betrayal and abandonment by the medical profession and government, who quickly dismiss their injuries and are slow to provide financial help or medical support.

Pete, a 23-year-old Melbourne man, was initially cautious about getting vaccinated due to a minor heart condition in childhood. Still, he proceeded with the vaccination in September 2021 on the strong advice of his cardiologist. However, within five minutes of his Pfizer shot, Pete experienced blurred vision and crushing pain in his chest, which he described as “extreme and sudden.” Panicked by the sudden pressure in his chest, Pete notified the doctor who administered the vaccination of his symptoms, only to be told he was probably just anxious.

Later that night, Pete’s symptoms worsened, and he was rushed to the emergency department (ED), where again he was dismissed as “just anxious.” At subsequent GP and specialist appointments, Pete was diagnosed with anxiety and prescribed anti-depressants on two occasions. Pete had no history of mental health disorders.

“From the very beginning, I was told that my condition was due to anxiety. I wanted to believe it because I hoped I’d get better, but over time, I felt completely betrayed. I go there with my fears and honest experience of what I’m experiencing, and they dismiss and call it anxiety,” says Pete.

Ten months later, Pete was diagnosed with myocarditis and pericarditis, both caused by his Pfizer vaccination. Unfortunately, during this time, Pete had not received appropriate medical care for his condition. 

The misdiagnosis of Covid vaccine injuries is shockingly common and is reported in most JIA testimonies. “They’re treating people with heart issues as mental health patients,” says Karri, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mother from Perth and ex-volunteer paramedic. Karri developed severe chest pain, tremors, blood clotting, abdominal pain, and signs of organ stress following her second Pfizer vaccination in June 2021. 

Like Pete, when Karri presented at the hospital with chest pains and shortness of breath, she was advised she was having an anxiety attack. Karri has been admitted to the ED 13 times since June 2021 and says the quickness of the medical staff across multiple different hospitals to put her symptoms down to anxiety baffled and distressed her. “I kept getting told the exact same thing at different hospitals. It was like they were reading from a script.” 

Karri has since been diagnosed with “likely pericarditis post-Covid vaccine” by a cardiologist, who reported the AEFI to WA Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS). Aside from a letter of acknowledgement of submission, Karri has not been contacted further. Karri has also been diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) by several neurologists, though they characterise it as a psychological condition, not vaccine-related. Karri’s psychologist disagrees with the diagnosis because the FND symptoms onset after her vaccination and the symptoms are unresponsive to psychological therapy.

Ironically, Karri has a history of mental health issues, managed with medication and regular visits to her psychologist. Still, she says her mental state has worsened due to gaslighting from medical professionals. “I would say that the way I’ve been treated has worsened my mental health. Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy because I’m constantly battling the doctors. I know my body, I’ve lived in it for 39 years, yet they’re treating me like I’m losing the plot.”

Surprisingly, the injured are routinely pressured into receiving further doses of vaccination by doctors unwilling to admit safety concerns with the vaccines or issue exemptions. By March 2022, a year of lost earnings due to being too unwell to work, Karri was returning to a level of functioning that would allow her to re-enter the workforce. She was desperate to find work to pay her mounting “through the roof” medical bills. However, she could not find a willing doctor to issue her an exemption. 

The roles she qualified for at the time were subject to vaccination mandates, so Karri was faced with the impossible choice of getting a booster to return to work or remain unemployed with crippling debt. She chose to proceed with the booster based on her GP’s assurance that Novavax was a safer option than mRNA vaccines, a decision she now says she “deeply regrets”, as her condition deteriorated dramatically after that shot. She is now so debilitated she cannot work at all.

Despite his recognised injuries, Pete has not yet been granted a medical exemption from further doses. The same cardiologist who advised him to take the first shot subsequently advised that he proceed with the second until his injury was documented by another cardiologist, after which she reversed her position.  

Dr Phelps points to AHPRA’s position statement (March 9 2021) on Covid vaccination as a form of censorship that has made doctors leery of discussing vaccine injury. “Regulators of the medical profession have censored public discussion about adverse events following immunisation, with threats to doctors not to make any public statements about anything that ‘might undermine the government’s vaccine rollout’ or risk suspension or loss of their registration,” says Dr Phelps.

 In response to Dr Phelps’ widely publicised claims of censorship, an AHPRA spokesperson told news.com.au “legitimate discussion and debate, based on science, is appropriate and necessary to progress our understanding and knowledge. The (March 9, 2021 position) statement does not prevent practitioners from having these discussions.”

However, the injured, including Pete and Karri, report that doctors often look physically uncomfortable at the mention of vaccine injury. Even with a verbal admission of a causal link, most are highly reticent to put it in writing. Umbrella News has previously reported on AHPRA’s aggressive regulatory tactics and their implications for doctors and patients, noting strong pushback from the Australian Medical Professionals’ Society (AMPS).

Presenting to EDs and GP offices with strange and seemingly disjointed constellations of symptoms, the injured find doctors don’t know what to do with them. Doctors can be unwilling to run the tests required to properly diagnose vaccine injury. Routine tests such as echocardiograms, Holter monitor tests, D dimers and chest X-rays often fail to pick up any abnormal results in the vaccine injured, a fact that Dr Phelps notes in her Inquiry Submission. 

After the aforementioned tests failed to pick up Pete’s myocarditis and pericarditis, Pete trawled through stories in vaccine injury recovery groups and eventually figured out that he needed a cardiac MRI. But, unfortunately, none of his first three cardiologists (including the one who recommended he get the Covid vaccine) would agree to it. Only when he tried a fourth cardiologist who agreed to run the test (in July 2022) was Pete’s diagnosis of pericarditis and myocarditis confirmed. Pete is still in disbelief at the lengths he had to go to get a diagnosis. 

“I had to push and push and push to get this test done. Without a proper diagnosis, I wasn’t able to get the right care or any compensation. It also has a huge emotional and mental impact to have a medical professional officially acknowledge the injury and to stop trying to push the next vaccination onto me.”

A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine to a patient in a car at a drive-in clinic during Melbourne's lockdown in 2021.
(A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine at a drive-in clinic during Melbourne’s lockdown in 2021. Photo: Christine Cooper)

Those who manage to get an official diagnosis establishing causality with Covid vaccination face the hurdle of qualifying for compensation. It takes many specialist appointments to get a diagnosis at considerable expense. Pete estimates that he is out of pocket over $5,000 so far. At $1,072 per ambulance trip and anywhere between $290-$500 for specialist appointments, Karri’s medical bills have stacked up to $41,000.  

But the conditions for compensation are stringent. Many side effects aren’t included, and for those that are, only certain conditions are eligible for specific vaccine brands. So, for example, you can claim myocarditis from Pfizer or Moderna but not Novavax or AstraZeneca; Guillain Barre Syndrome is covered for AstraZeneca, but none of the others. 

The limited list of AEFIs recognised by the compensation scheme is startling in light of the fact Pfizer’s very own Covid vaccine trial documents include a nine-page list of potential vaccine side effects. In the context of an emerging body of evidence associating Covid vaccines with a swathe of illnesses, including auto-immune, neurological, dermatological, and cardiovascular disorders. 

A standout point is that “anxiety-related reactions” are not eligible for compensation. It bears repeating that the injured are often inappropriately diagnosed with “anxiety” as the first port of call when presenting with AEFIs, before eventually receiving a proper diagnosis if they have the time, money and energy to pursue it. 

The stress of navigating the compensation process is often too much, combining the stress of the injury, the fight for a proper diagnosis, and the search for treatment. As a result, some injured abandon or delay the compensation and diagnostic process to simply focus on recovery.

At the moment, Pete focuses on putting one foot in front of the other. He continues to suffer from fatigue, daily chest pain, and shortness of breath and cannot work. Pete submitted a report of his AEFI to the TGA but has never received any further follow-up. He says he intends to submit a compensation claim, but he’s still working on the documentation, adding that “it’s a complicated process, and it takes it out of me.”

Karri is directing her energy toward healing and finding a sense of well-being after the past 18 months of trauma. She is also turning her efforts towards advocating for others injured by the Covid vaccines.

“I’ve managed to find a good GP, psychologist and some good specialists to work with. My garden keeps me happy, and yoga. I’m organising a support group for the vaccine injured here in WA so that we can support each other through the healing process.”

The inadequacy of our health institutions and the medical profession in helping those who have suffered serious AEFIs after Covid vaccination has given rise to new networks, which offer a source of hope and healing for the injured. Facebook and other online groups provide a platform for the injured to gain emotional support and share information about practitioners and treatments that have helped them.

Several not-for-profit organisations have been created in response to the needs of the injured. CoVerse offers information, advocacy and support for the injured, their families, and health professionals seeking to better equip themselves in diagnosing and treating vaccine injury. Matt Jordan will soon launch One Humanity Movement, a pro-choice, community-focused hub facilitating support, healing, education, and employment connections.

Those in the unharmed majority can support by listening, advocating, and helping in the most practical ways. This may be meal delivery, cleaning the house, or even financially assisting an injured loved one. Until our national and state frameworks for diagnosing, treating and supporting the vaccine injured catch up, much is required at the community level to support those for whom the Covid vaccines turned out to be unsafe.

This article features the stories of Pete and Karri with their permission.
Read Pete’s full story here.
Read Karri’s full story here.



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