‘I’m young and healthy, I didn’t expect to have a reaction’

A HEALTHY 20-year-old man with no pre-existing health conditions was hospitalised with the heart condition myocarditis following his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Bilal Assif has urged people to ensure they understood the side effects of the vaccine before taking it. (30280849)
Bilal Assif has urged people to ensure they understood the side effects of the vaccine before taking it. (30280849)

‘I’m a young, healthy person – I didn’t expect to have a reaction. I don’t think we know enough about this vaccine for people to be taking it,’ said Bilal Assif.

He urged others to check in with their doctors if they had symptoms.

‘We’ve all been told “get the vaccine, get the vaccine” but I wasn’t told about how the vaccine would effect me.’

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle and often starts with mild symptoms but can result in cardiac arrest or heart failure.

Mr Assif said his first dose of the vaccine went OK, with a numbness in his arm and slight pain where the injection went in being the only side effects.

‘After my second vaccine, I had a slight rash on the first day,’ he added.

‘The day after the vaccine I had chest pains, but I didn’t think much of it and went to bed. The next morning, it was unbearable at that point, so I went to A&E and spent a week in hospital.’

Following multiple episodes in his stay at the hospital, Mr Assif said he was in so much pain his whole body was shaking.

‘One night it was so severe they had to put me on opioids the pain was so unbearable,’ he said.

He was discharged from hospital at the end of October. He went for an MRI scan on his heart in Southampton and is awaiting the results. Myocarditis treatment largely involves supportive measures in hospital and severe cases can impact life expectancy and quality of life. An active young man, architectural design and technology student, and apprentice at CCD Architects, Mr Assif said future uncertainty was scary.

‘We don’t know what the long-term effects are. It was scary hearing that from a doctor and it was the first time I’d ever heard that – I didn’t know what to think.’

Prior to having the vaccine, Mr Assif cycled to work and regularly played football, but after his health scare he could not exercise for six weeks.

‘It has left me feeling slightly left out of day-to-day routine, especially study and work,’ he said.

He urged people to ensure they understood the side effects of the vaccine before taking it.

‘There was a piece of paper about side effects but it was not highlighted enough that you can get a reaction from this from a young age.’

Having fun with friends and wanting life to return to normal had caused many people to have the vaccination without understanding the risk of side-effects, he said.

‘You’re told you can’t go out if you don’t have the vaccine – it’s ingrained into us that we need the vaccine.’

Mr Assif feared others may have had the condition, but it had instead been written off as a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

‘Even if people have slight chest pains or shortness of breath, they need to check in with their doctors.’

Symptoms include chest discomfort, pain, or tightness, a fast or irregular heart beat, and breathlessness. The sooner you get checked out, the quicker you get treated and the less serious the short and long term effects will be.’he precise risk of post-vaccine myocarditis and long-term implications are unknown but data from Israel, which had one of the earliest Pfizer vaccine rollouts, showed 1 in 4500 16-23 year-olds with post-vaccine myocarditis, representing a risk of 222/million.

The States of Guernsey state a maximum risk of 34/million for the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15 yr olds.

This suggests people aged 15-23 have the greatest risk. Data also shows it is more common in men.

Myocarditis of any cause is responsible for 20% of all sudden cardiac deaths each year worldwide and has a rate of 10/million in children and young adults.

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