WATCH: Maxwell Harrison speaks to ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw about his rare heart problem
A former ballroom dancer, from Kent, has called for better compensation for those who have suffered adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccines.
Maxwell Harrison, who represented Great Britain in international dance competitions, said he had to give up his passion after being diagnosed with a rare heart condition.
The 22-year-old told ITV News he is not anti-vaccination but wants the “very small percentage of people you’ve had medically documented” side effects to be “properly looked after”.
The law student, from Maidstone, used to travel the world performing with his younger sister until he started experiencing heart palpitations in the days after his second Covid jab in September 2021.
Maxwell Harrison said: “I started getting mild chest pain. I thought it was just heartburn – nothing too serious. But it was on the ninth or tenth day after receiving the vaccine that I experienced a cardiac event.
“I couldn’t breath, I was in extreme pain, [having] palpitations. I was training for the world championships, and even at the competition itself I had to have the help of paramedics.
“So, it became very clear very quickly that something wasn’t right but it wasn’t for a very long time that we could attribute it to the second vaccine itself.”
In medical letters seen by ITV News, Maxwell was told he had “vaccine-induced perimyocarditis” – a combination of two conditions listed as “very rare side effects” in official patient information leaflets for the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty vaccination.
That document explains that ‘inflammation of the heart muscle – myocarditis – or inflammation of the lining outside the heart – pericarditis’ may affect ‘up to 1 in 10,000’ vaccine recipients.
Such side effects are “very, very rare” according to Professor Martin Michaelis, an expert in molecular medicine at the University of Kent.
Prof Michaelis added: “The side effects are very rare so you have to make an overall risk-benefit analysis to see whether you want to take the vaccine. Although there are people who have these side effects – and sometimes very severe side effects – the risk of not taking the vaccine, on average, is much higher.
“We know that we are all probably, for the foreseeable future, going to be infected again, and again, and again by Covid-19. So, our best chance to get through this with the smallest impact is to take the vaccine.”
WATCH: Martin Michaelis, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Kent, explains how rare serious vaccine side effects are with ITV News Meridian’s Matt Teale
Maxwell Harrison has set up a petition calling for a change in the law to allow more people in his situation to be able to claim government compensation. He believes that the existing scheme, under the Vaccine Damage Payments Act 1979, has too high a threshold.
Maxwell said: “I am not trying to discourage the vaccine. All I’m trying to do is say look, there are genuine cases of adverse reactions, that’s all. If we can acknowledge that, we can have a better conversation and that very small percentage of people you’ve had those genuine, medically documented adverse reactions, they can be properly looked after.”
The former dance star hasn’t given up hope that with regular medication, his heart problems will ease and one day he’ll be able to return to the ballroom.
In a statement, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “All vaccines being used in the UK have undergone robust clinical trials and have met the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality.
“The Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme provides a one-off tax free payment of £120,000 to claimants who meet the criteria of the scheme. Claimants may also have access to other government schemes to provide support for those with a disability or long-term health condition.”
A Pfizer UK spokesperson said: “Patient safety is, and will always be, Pfizer’s utmost priority. We work with regulatory authorities around the world to continuously evaluate and monitor safety for each and every Pfizer medicine and vaccine through ongoing clinical research, analysis and surveillance.”
The statement went on to explain: “myocarditis and pericarditis [is] as a potential known side effect” of the Comirnaty Covid-19 mRNA vaccine. It added: “Very rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been reported following vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
“These cases occurred predominantly in adolescents and young adults, more often in males than females, more often after the second dose of the vaccine, and typically within 14 days after vaccination.
“These are generally mild cases and individuals tend to recover within a short time following standard treatment and rest. Healthcare professionals should be alert to the signs and symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis in vaccine recipients.
“Regulatory authorities around the globe continue to recommend Covid-19 vaccinations and the benefit risk profile of our vaccine remains positive for all approved indications and age groups.”
“Patients who receive the COVID-19 vaccine should talk to their doctor, pharmacist or nurse if they have any concerns or experience any side effects. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet.
“Side effects can be reported directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at: yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk. By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.”
More impartial information about Covid-19 vaccinations and possible side effects is available on the NHS website.