Canadians who say they suffered adverse reactions dealing with silence, stigma

he story of a Gatineau, Que., man who developed a debilitating skin condition after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has struck a chord with many Canadians, dozens of whom reached out to share their own similar experiences.

Shortly after Tisir Otahbachi received his second dose of the Moderna vaccine in August 2021, a burning rash that had started on his hand spread to his limbs and back, forcing him to quit his jobs and seek medical treatment in Ontario. Otahbachi is now seeking redress through Quebec’s vaccine injury compensation program.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, only a tiny fraction — 0.011 per cent — of the more than 95 million vaccine doses administered in this country as of Dec. 9 resulted in serious adverse reactions. But that’s still more than 10,000 reported cases.

Otahbachi, who had never experienced any skin problems before, told that throughout his ordeal, most of the doctors who examined him dismissed the possibility of any link between the vaccine and the sudden onset of his painful condition.

“I told [them] I’m not against the vaccine, but the vaccine damaged my body,” he said. “The doctors that I’ve been to, all of them were scared.”

Health units monitoring reactions

According to Earl Brown, a professor emeritus of virology at the University of Ottawa, certain elements of these vaccines can trigger an autoimmune response that targets our own tissues.

“You’ve got a lot of people who have developed antibodies to these vaccine components because they’re used elsewhere in medicine or in cosmetics or in food,” Brown told last week.

“Most of us do very well, but some of us are getting adverse reactions.”

While many of those who reached out after reading Otahbachi’s story said they’d also had a difficult time convincing doctors that a COVID vaccine may have caused their skin condition, Ottawa’s medical officer of health Vera Etches told Radio’s Ottawa Morning last week that medical professionals are encouraged to report all suspected cases.

“We want to understand the full range of what can happen with vaccines,” Etches said. “We know these kinds of things are extremely rare, but we have a system for reporting so that we can find rare things and assist people.”

Local health units then report those reactions to Public Health Ontario, which compiles and examines the data to spot wider trends, Etches said.

“Overall of course we know vaccines are providing a great benefit in protecting people from severe outcomes [of COVID-19].”