Guernsey Press

‘I started to see things which made me more and more concerned’

Dr Dean Patterson, a consultant cardiologist at the Medical Specialist Group, caused controversy recently by voicing his concerns about Covid-19 vaccine side-effects and calling for an urgent investigation into their safety. He tells Matt Fallaize why he is far from just an anti-vaxxer

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Dr Dean Patterson. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33067415)

BEFORE the Covid pandemic, Dr Dean Patterson had given little thought to vaccines, being that they were outside his branch of medicine as a consultant cardiologist, and he held unremarkable, orthodox views about their use and effectiveness.

Every time I put it to him that his critics now see him as an anti-vaxxer – perhaps the local medical community’s most prominent anti-vaxxer – he dismisses the label, saying it is either too simplistic or inaccurate.

‘I had never previously questioned a vaccine. Not once had I considered a patient having a vaccine side-effect,’ said Dr Patterson.

‘I’ve had many vaccines myself – the last one was the flu vaccine, I think in 2018 – and I was always very happy to recommend vaccines to my patients, and I still recommend vaccines to my patients.’

When preparations for the Covid pandemic started, early in 2020, he favoured taking a highly cautious approach.

Asked to look into the most appropriate use of personal protective equipment, he suggested that at least all hospital doctors should wear the highest level of protection – ‘the full regalia’, as he puts it – but he said supply shortages made that impossible.

On 9 March 2020, the Bailiwick identified its first case of Covid. On 20 March, a second case was confirmed, and a day later 15 more cases. About 1,000 people were already in compulsory isolation when the first case of local transmission was identified on 24 March. At 7pm that day, the States announced it was putting the island into lockdown.

The first Covid vaccines did not arrive in the island until the middle of December, months after Dr Patterson started to have misgivings about the authorities’ response to the pandemic.

‘I signed up to the Great Barrington Declaration, which was about focused protection for older and more vulnerable members of the community and letting everyone else get on with their lives, not doing too much damage to the economy, not putting too much stress on people’s lives, and avoiding unintended consequences of mass lockdown.’

The declaration became almost an article of faith for lockdown sceptics and later some vaccine sceptics too.

But it was pilloried as promoting an unsafe approach by the overwhelming majority of public health experts and authorities.

Equally, around the world there were a wide variety of responses to the pandemic, and there were relative successes among both more conservative and more liberal approaches.

Most notably, Sweden avoided many of the more draconian restrictions used elsewhere, especially on mask-wearing, school closures and freedom of assembly, and recorded fewer deaths per capita than the European average.

‘Early on, I was raising concerns with public health officials. I felt they were always using the worst-case projections. That’s not how you should do things in life because it tends to create panic.

‘I had done some research and I liked what I was reading about the Swedish model. We had a presentation at an academic half-day and I asked about Sweden. They said they would come back to me about that, but they never did. Overall, I think Sweden got this right.

‘I was worried about the unintended consequences of lockdown. At that stage, if you had asked me to choose between lockdown and vaccines, I would have said “don’t do lockdown”. That was my instinct. I wasn’t against a vaccine and had always had vaccines.’

From lockdown to vaccines

Guernsey’s approach enjoyed high levels of public approval throughout the pandemic and, in both public health and economic terms, was generally considered more successful than its neighbours’, small and large, albeit the long-term effects of lockdown on children in particular are yet to be fully understood.

Four years on from the arrival of Covid on these shores, the decisions made about lockdowns, travel, schools and economic support no longer feel like battlegrounds, if they ever really were, and there is ample room in public discourse for healthy differences of opinion.

Less so where Covid vaccines are concerned.

Criticism of the approach adopted often quickly provokes somewhat petty anti-vaxxer accusations, as if any critic is inevitably not just wrong but unhinged.

Mass vaccine sceptics often find it hard to avoid internet-dug rabbit holes promoting global conspiracy theories.

I trust there are a few of us left who see no conflict in recognising why mass vaccination was considered the lowest-risk approach and why unrecognised vaccine injury remains a cause for concern.

It was in that spirit in which the Guernsey Press requested an interview with Dr Patterson, who has been a well-regarded consultant at the Medical Specialist Group for nearly 20 years, has made significant claims of vaccine injury in his patients, and recently wrote to the General Medical Council calling for an urgent investigation into vaccine safety, a move reported in the international press.

‘When the first vaccine came out, it was obvious it had been developed with unprecedented speed, and I felt there must be unknowns.

‘If people asked me about it, I was honest and said I didn’t know enough about it. I was being completely neutral on it, really.

‘I had no preconceived ideas about this.

‘But in medicine you learn so much from your patients and I started to see things which made me more and more concerned.’


Growing concerns

Dr Patterson recalls a lengthy list of patients. The first, in April 2021, appeared to have suffered two unexplained warning heart attacks days after vaccine jabs. ‘That was the first time this thing had ever really occurred to me.’

A few days later, a patient reported chest pains 24 hours after a vaccine jab. Soon after, another patient, a young woman, who had a weak heart years ago but no heart trouble since, was admitted to intensive care and quickly died of heart failure. Dr Patterson said he pushed for a post-mortem because of the unusual speed of the patient’s deterioration.

‘When the post-mortem came back, it showed myocarditis [inflammation of the heart muscle] and her valve had basically been destroyed. Then I reviewed everything and realised that she was breathless soon after her first vaccine and knocked flat soon after her second vaccine. It was put down that the Covid vaccine could not be excluded from causing her death. She had a sticky blood syndrome and the haematologist subsequently told me that was absolutely a contraindication to the vaccine.’ A contraindication makes a treatment or procedure inadvisable.

He mentions too many cases to repeat them all.

‘In my personal experience, the Covid vaccine has caused me intolerable concern for patient safety here in Guernsey. In my 33 years of medical practice, I have never witnessed such harm from a therapeutic intervention,’ said Dr Patterson, in his letter to the GMC.

‘In the first year of the [vaccine] roll-out, I diagnosed 25 patients with myocarditis and 20 cases of pericarditis...[i]n the 16 years prior to this, I would on average diagnose two to three myocarditis cases per year.

‘In addition, I have noticed an increase in the number of heart failure and acute myocardial infarction cases. I am currently auditing the ambulatory ECG data as I believe there has been an increase in arrhythmia burden.

‘Incredibly, the side-effects don’t stop there, as I have been informed of a doubling of the stroke referral numbers recently, with an increase in overall thrombo-emboli disease since the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines.’

An obvious question is how Dr Patterson can be sure that the conditions he has observed are not caused by the Covid infection itself.

‘My observations are about people who have only been vaccinated. We tested them for Covid and, for as many as I could, sent away antibody levels to determine if they had previously had Covid.

‘When you have Covid, you make S and N antibodies, but when you have the vaccine you have only S antibodies. These people had no virus – they only had the vaccine.’

‘A lone voice on this issue’

The MSG has repeatedly distanced itself from Dr Patterson’s comments about the Covid vaccine. It has said that his views are not shared by his medical colleagues and has accused him of undermining public confidence in the safety of the vaccine.

If anything, it distanced itself from Dr Patterson’s recent letter even more aggressively than it did when he first raised his concerns publicly late in 2021.

Organisations concerned with public health in the UK and internationally have acknowledged some increase in the incidence of myocarditis and pericarditis following the Covid vaccine, but have insisted that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

‘Covid was presented as a kind of existential threat. The whole machinery of government, everywhere, was pushing very, very hard,’ said Dr Patterson.

‘I think a lot of people, including a lot of doctors, sort of kept their head down and went along with the general view, perhaps overwhelmed by it all and reaching for the security of doing what everyone else was doing.

‘I think as a group of doctors we were badly managed. I don’t think there was any real openness about the potential side-effects of the vaccine.’

It seems an understatement to refer to Dr Patterson as a lone voice on this issue. Publicly at least, his views remain far removed from almost everyone else’s in the medical community locally.

He is indifferent about this, which seems at once both courageous and slightly unsettling.

When I ask him whether he believes time will vindicate his concerns, he pauses, and I sense it’s the one question he was really hoping I would ask.

‘Yes – I would bet everything I’ve got and my children’s lives on it. I am that confident.’

  • This article was originally published in the Guernsey Press on 19 March 2024.

  • Guernsey’s director of public health Dr Nicola Brink, medical director Dr Peter Rabey, and Medical Specialist Group chairman Dr Steve Evans wrote a joint letter in response to the above.