A woman who is suffering from an unexplained skin condition on her feet has told how a misunderstanding over its cause sparked a slew of anti-vaccine propaganda to spread online.
Patricia Chandler, from Texas, began experiencing pain in her foot in October, less than a week after she took part in a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial.
When an enormous blister erupted on her heel, she went to see a doctor who suggested numerous possible causes, including fixed drug eruption – a dermatological reaction to a medicine.
Patricia, who is in her thirties, began to suspect the vaccine – the second dose of which had been administered five days earlier on October 19 – was the cause and mentioned it to her cousin Rebecca Moore.
Patricia Chandler, from Texas, began experiencing pain in her foot in October, less than a week after she took part in a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial
When an enormous blister erupted on her heel (pictured), Patricia went to see a doctor who suggested numerous possible causes, including fixed drug eruption – a dermatological reaction to a medicine
To help with medical bills, as Patricia is already struggling to fund her healthcare due to a back condition, Rebecca set up a GoFundMe page, posting photos of Patricia’s blistered foot.
The page initially stated that she’d been a volunteer in the Covid-19 vaccine study and had a ‘severe adverse reaction’, but did not clarify that the cause hadn’t been confirmed.
Photos of her feet were subsequently lifted and went viral after they were shared on social media by an anti-vaccine influencer.
It was shared on anti-vaccine Facebook groups across the world and even picked up by an apocalypse-themed evangelical Christian site that promotes conspiracy theories about vaccines, the COVID-19 pandemic and the presidential election, reports the BBC.
It prompted Patricia’s doctors – and Pfizer – to look into her participation in the vaccine trial, and it emerged that Patricia was given a saline solution placebo, not the jab containing the drug.
Patricia has since made her social media profiles private after receiving online abuse from people calling her an ‘idiot’, ‘drug addict’ and ‘con artist’.
She received messages from anti-vaccine activists chastising her for taking part in the trial, and from people who accused her of spreading fake news.
Patricia admitted: ‘The fact that these anti-vaxxers are using this to fuel their agenda is infuriating.’
Photos of Patricia’s feet were subsequently lifted and went viral after they were shared on social media by an anti-vaccine influencer
She acknowledged the wording on her GoFundMe page had been misleading, telling the BBC: ‘I have to assume some culpability for putting my story out there.
‘It’s social media. You share it for one second and it can get picked up and go viral. My injury had nothing to do with the vaccine. My bad. People make mistakes.’
Since then she has set up a YouTube channel where she shares regular updates about her mysterious condition, which doctors now suspect could be an allergic reaction to high strength prescription ibuprofen.
She has also updated the GoFundMe page to accurately reflect her diagnosis.
Her feet continue to cause her pain – and had rendered her unable to walk or work for a month.
The page reads: ‘Through the pandemic [Patricia] has already struggled with making ends meet, as I am sure many of us can understand and relate to in these trying times.
‘With her contract through her position at work, she has no paid leave, so if she is not there she does not get any wages. It is a lose, lose financially.
‘Additionally, she is facing a major spinal surgery that will cost at least $3,000 and will put her out of work for an additional 6-12 weeks.’
The GoFundMe has raised $5,420 so far.
Patricia received messages from anti-vaccine activists chastising her for taking part in the trial, and from people who accused her of spreading fake news
Patricia’s feet continue to cause her pain – and the condition has left her unable to walk or work for a month
Patricia’s doctors are continuing to investigate the cause of her condition.
She has since been fitted with special boots by her podiatrist, costing $50, which she’s required to wear for a month.
In a video shared on December 2, she explained that her podiatrist agrees with the fixed drug eruption diagnosis, believing the strong ibuprofen is the most likely cause of her reaction, and Patricia will now receive specialist wound care.
Patricia’s decision to speak out about her condition comes as the US continues to wait for the FDA to approve the Pfizer vaccine – after it was approved in the UK, where it is already being administered, and in Canada.
What is fixed drug eruption?
A fixed drug eruption is an allergic reaction to a medicine that characteristically recurs in the same site or sites each time a particular drug is taken.
Usually, just one drug is involved, although independent lesions from more than one drug have been described.
Fixed drug eruption presents as well defined, round or oval patches of redness and swelling of the skin, sometimes surmounted by a blister. This then fades to a purplish or brown colour and the blister shrinks and peels off.
Exactly how a fixed drug eruption arises and why just certain areas of skin are affected, is unclear.
Info supplied by DermNet
The FDA advisory committee is set to meet on Thursday to decide whether or not to give the go-ahead for vaccine approval.
However Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have warned those with ‘significant’ food and medicine allergies not to take the vaccine yet after two healthcare workers who were given the drug on Tuesday suffered allergic reactions.
In America, that applies to at least 200,000 people who have food allergies and many more who have drug allergies.
Up to seven million people in Britain have allergies severe enough to require medical care, according to the NHS, while around 250,000 people need to carry an EpiPen at all times.
Both healthcare workers had an anaphylactoid reaction to the vaccine, which is milder than anaphylaxis, and tends to involve a rash, shortness of breath, swelling of the face and tongue or a drop in blood pressure, the NHS revealed.
They are now said to be recovering well.
During Pfizer’s vaccine trial in the US, 137 out of around 19,000 people given the vaccine had one or more of these reactions. But 111 who got the placebo also had allergic reactions.
Reactions to the jab can include a temperature, nausea, swelling of the arm or in severe cases feeling generally unwell with swollen lymph node glands.
A Pfizer spokesman said: ‘We have been advised by MHRA of two yellow card reports that may be associated with allergic reaction due to administration of the COVID-19 BNT162b2 vaccine.
‘As a precautionary measure, the MHRA has issued temporary guidance to the NHS while it conducts an investigation in order to fully understand each case and its causes. Pfizer and BioNTech are supporting the MHRA in the investigation.
‘In the pivotal phase 3 clinical trial, this vaccine was generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns reported by the independent Data Monitoring Committee. The trial has enrolled over 44,000 participants to date, over 42,000 of whom have received a second vaccination’.
The allergy scare came hours after Britain’s drug regulator dismissed safety fears over the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine after a report revealed four people in a trial in the US got Bell’s palsy. The condition, which is usually temporary, causes muscles on one side of the face to droop because of nerves not working properly.
HOW SAFE IS THE PFIZER VACCINE?
Scientists have carried out extensive clinical trials on the Pfizer vaccine and established that it is safe to use. And the UK regulator rubber-stamped it with a seal of approval, saying it was safe to administer, after evaluating data from 44,000 volunteers in the trials.
But today they issued an advisory notice saying that those with a history of allergies should not get the vaccine.
Concerns have been raised over the speed with which the vaccine was approved – in a matter of months – but scientists have said no corners were cut and this was possible due to the enormous number of volunteers that signed up for the clinical trials.
Pfizer and BioNTech both said they found no serious safety concerns during their four-month long trials.
A spokesman for Pfizer said today there jab was ‘generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns reported’.
‘The trial has enrolled over 44,000 participants to date, over 42,000 of whom have received a second vaccination.’
Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said that the vaccine was ‘extremely safe’ and that he would be cautious about attributing the allergic reactions to the jab.
‘I think it’s probably safer in my view than many other vaccines currently available,’ he told MailOnline. ‘It really is very clean technology.’
‘I would be cautious about attributing the allergic reactions to the vaccine at this moment, especially as it hasn’t cropped up in clinical trials,’ he said.
‘The big allergic reaction to vaccines normally is an egg allergy, because historically influenza vaccines and several others have been grown in hens eggs and you inevitably get a bit of egg protein coming through with the final product.
‘But there’s nothing like that in the mRNA vaccine. The only addition is the lipid coating that they put on the mRNA before it goes into cells – but there’s no history of allergic reactions to that.’
He added that the MHRA had been ‘cautious’ in saying that those with a history of allergies should not get the vaccine.
Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, told Sky News the vaccine was approved so quickly due to a ramping up of its clinical trials: ‘The safety regulatory process is still there but the time frame between things, they’ve tried to shorten, just in terms of it’s not sitting in a pile of things to be approved.’
WHAT ARE THE KNOWN SIDE EFFECTS FROM THE PFIZER VACCINE?
The UK medicines regulator advised today that anyone who has a history of ‘significant’ allergic reactions to medicines, food or vaccines should not get the Pfizer coronavirus jab.
Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the MHRA, told Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee that this was not identified in the trials.
‘We know from very extensive clinical trials that this wasn’t a feature,’ she said.
Allergic reactions to the vaccine are ‘very rare’, according to the trials involving more than 40,000 people.
Pfizer found a ‘very small number’ during its phase three clinical studies, or 137 out of 19,000 people who got the vaccine.
They also identified 12 possible side-effects from the vaccine, with seven identified as ‘very common’ meaning they are likely to affect more than one in ten people.
Below are the known side effects.
The patient safety leaflet for the vaccine cautions that anyone with an allergy to any of the active substances in the vaccine should not receive the jab.
It adds: ‘Signs of an allergic reaction may include itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue.’
Allergic reactions to the vaccine are as follows:
Very common (Likely to affect more than one in ten people)
Pain at injection site
Common (Likely to affect up to one in ten people)
Injection site swelling
Redness at injection site
Uncommon (May affect one in 100 people)
Enlarged lymph nodes
Four cases of it were found in a group of 21,720 people who had the Pfizer vaccine in a trial in the US, compared to none among 21,728 people given a placebo vaccine. But this rate of occurrence is no different to how often it would be expected to happen in a random population, the company said.
Scientists have told the public not to panic and say the vaccine is safe but there is still a large amount of skepticism surrounding it.
However, the reports of allergic reactions raise questions about whether the FDA was right to take longer in approving the shot, despite receiving pressure from Americans to give it the go-ahead because Britain had.
On December 3, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the Brits had moved too quickly.
‘In all fairness to so many of my UK friends, they kind of ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile,’ he said.
‘I think that would be a good metaphor for that…because they really rushed through that approval. I love the Brits, they’re great, they’re good scientists, but they just took the data from the Pfizer company and instead of scrutinizing it really, really carefully, they said, ‘OK, let’s approve it, that’s it.’ And they went with it.
‘In fact, they were even rather severely criticized by their European Union counterparts who were saying, you know, “That was kind of a hot dog play,”‘ he said.
He then apologized for his remarks and said they were driven by competitiveness.
The UK embarked on its plan to vaccinate the entire population against coronavirus on Monday by rolling out the new weapon in the war on COVID at 50 hospital sites to the over-80s, the vulnerable and at-risk frontline hospital and care home staff.
Margaret Keenan, a Coventry grandmother, was first in line to have the Pfizer vaccine, declaring: ‘If I can have it at 90, then you can have it too.’
Despite the two allergy cases the UK Government is today continuing to vaccinate between 5,000 and 7,000 people per day across the country with 800,000 Pfizer doses already in hospitals and millions more on the way.