Guernsey Press

‘Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective’

Guernsey’s director of public health Dr Nicola Brink, medical director Dr Peter Rabey, and Medical Specialist Group chairman Dr Steve Evans have written this joint letter in response to our coverage of consultant cardiologist Dr Dean Patterson’s concerns about Covid-19 vaccine side-effects...

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WE WERE disappointed to see the extensive four pages of coverage given to Dr Dean Patterson’s views on Covid-19 vaccination in the Guernsey Press of 19 March.

It is unfortunate that public confidence in the safety of the vaccines is being undermined yet again in this way. And not just for Covid vaccination – since the article was published, a number of pregnant women have told our doctors they are reluctant to accept any of the vaccines that are normally given in pregnancy to protect them, their unborn child and the child in the early months of infancy.

Dr Patterson’s views on the Covid vaccine, although sincerely and passionately held, are not those of the majority of doctors and scientists in Guernsey and across the world.

There is clear and overwhelming support among doctors for the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, based on evidence from a huge amount of ongoing research.

The Global Covid Vaccine Safety Project, for example, has been monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the risk of adverse responses to the vaccine in 99m. people across eight countries since 2021. This, together with other forms of national monitoring and reporting, allows for a detailed evaluation of vaccine side effects.

All the evidence to date is that the benefits of the vaccines – the greatly reduced risk of serious illness or death from Covid – far outweigh the very small risk of side-effects such as myocarditis or pericarditis.

Serious reactions to Covid vaccines are extremely rare. Information on these side-effects is included in the patient information leaflet provided to all eligible individuals or parents of eligible individuals depending on their age, to allow them to make an informed decision as to whether they accept their offer of a vaccine. It is also important to note that the Bailiwick has never had a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination programme.

While we feel that it is of paramount importance that doctors are able to raise any concerns with regard to patient safety, it is also important that information is presented accurately.

Unfortunately, there were significant factual errors in Dr Patterson’s letter to the General Medical Council which we have asked him to correct. In an early version of his letter to the GMC he stated ‘In 2020 Guernsey had 20,000 Covid cases’. The actual figure was fewer than 300. He has corrected that error in the version of the letter given to the Press, however further inaccuracies remain. Dr Patterson’s revised statement that ‘between 2020 and mid-2021, Guernsey had 20,000 Covid-positive PCR tests which resulted in 1-2,000 cases’ is also false. In fact, there were 1,471 positive PCR tests to the end of June 2021, connected to 838 cases (some Covid-positive individuals were re-tested for release from isolation with tests being repeated until such a time as they were negative). Dr Patterson’s figure of 20,000 overstates the number of positive results by more than 90%, while his number of positive cases, 1-2,000, significantly exceeds the actual number by the end of June 2021, of 838.

In addition, Dr Patterson has slightly modified his statement on stroke cases but is still stating that stroke cases have doubled when in fact they have remained the same. Building an argument based on such inaccurate data is misleading.

In his letter to the GMC, Dr Patterson notes a background rate of hospital admissions for myocarditis in England and Wales of 250 cases over 10 years. NHS hospital episode statistics between 1998 and 2017 demonstrate that there were 12,927 admissions with a primary diagnosis of myocarditis, and that over this 19-year period there was an 88% increase in admissions for myocarditis. This tells us myocarditis incidence was far higher than Dr Patterson claims and that there was a known increasing trend in myocarditis admissions which long-predated the Covid-19 pandemic and Covid-19 vaccination.

We are unable to comment on the ‘lengthy list of patients’ who Dr Patterson has diagnosed with suspected vaccine-induced injury – the two versions of Dr Patterson’s letter in circulation show widely different numbers which he claims to have diagnosed in the first year of the vaccine, and he has not confirmed to us the list of those he has submitted to the MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) in line with his duty as a doctor.

We recognise that there is a small but vocal group of people locally who are against the Covid vaccines, and they are unlikely to be persuaded by this letter. But we are optimistic that the vast majority of islanders will continue to support the approach of Public Health to Covid and vaccination which has always been and continues to be soundly based on evidence and best practice.