A BC man who was among the first Canadians accepted into Canada’s Vaccine Injury Assistance Program says he is frustrated at the length of time it is taking to receive compensation.
Ross Wightman, of Lake Country, BC, was partially paralyzed after receiving a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in April 2021. Within the first few days of receiving the vaccination, he experienced severe lower back and hamstring pain.
“And then, 10 days after my shot, I ended up in the ER four times,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “[It was]originally a mysterious diagnosis, but by the fourth time I started presenting with facial paralysis, and that’s when my life really turned upside down.”
Wightman was hospitalized for 67 days. He had developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare condition in which the individual’s immune system begins attacking the body’s nerves. BC’s Centers for Disease Control states that there is about a 1 in 700,000 chance of contracting the disease after vaccination.
Wightman’s application for the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was approved in May. But he still hasn’t received any compensation since then. He said Health Canada has yet to approve its filing and spending on income replacement.
“It was very boring and frustrating for the first probably eight months just not being able to get constant communication or any answers,” Wightman said. “I still have hundreds of thousands of dollars and so on in cash spending over the past 16 months.
As of June 1, 2022, the program says it has received 774 vaccine injury claims. Only eight were approved and 71 were declared inadmissible. There are also 553 applications in the process of collecting medical records, while 23 are awaiting evaluation by a medical review board.
The program has not disclosed how much financial assistance has been disbursed, citing “privacy reasons” as “not all approved applicants have processed their payment.”
Before his diagnosis, Wightman had been a real estate agent and airline pilot. He says he lived an active lifestyle.
“I was in the gym five, six days a week. I hate blowing my own horn, but if you ask most people, they’d say I’m one of the fitter people and just felt like there’s really nothing I couldn’t do,” he said. “My life is very, very, very different. It’s very much like it was a short time ago.”
Wightman says he has since made significant progress in his recovery and is able to walk again with the help of special leg braces, but still feels “a fraction of the man” he used to be.
“(I) am just trying to stay positive and still put the work into this marathon that I’m running and try to keep my head up,” he said. “I’m trying to keep my life busy with family and friends and recovery. It’s a kind of therapy that I’m involved in every day.”