My post-vaccine chest pain and a desperate search for answers

22 November 2021

8:54 AM

22 November 2021

8:54 AM

Four months ago, I had my second dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. I work for the NHS and fully support Britain’s vaccination campaign, so it was a simple decision for me to make. I had no problems with my first dose and I knew that the vaccines have been found to be highly effective and safe, preventing up to 96 per cent of Covid hospitalisations.

The day after my second dose I began to feel some aches and pains, but I gave little thought to the vaccine and carried on as normal. Four days later though my chest was seriously aching. I tried various stretches and painkillers but my symptoms grew worse. Then there was a sharp pain, piercing into the left side of my chest, near my heart. After a quick call to NHS 111, they sent me directly to Accident & Emergency, where I was strapped up to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine and given blood tests to see if I was having a heart attack. I’m in my early thirties and relatively healthy, with no family history of heart disease or underlying conditions, and I’d never felt this sensation before.

Could this somehow have been related to the vaccine? I tried to stay as calm as possible until the results came back. In the end the tests showed that everything was okay. A consultant told me that my level of troponin, a protein which is the tell-tale sign of heart damage, was completely normal, and that the ECG looked fine. I was sent home and told to take painkillers for what the doctor suspected was a pulled muscle, but I felt that this didn’t fully explain what I was feeling at the time.

Rather than improving, my symptoms remained, and two weeks later I found myself once again sitting in Accident & Emergency. The pain had intensified but once again the medical investigations into my condition were fruitless. This time, I voiced my suspicion that the vaccine might have had a role to play, but I was sternly told that this was baseless. I was prescribed a course of phosphates, a mineral which blood tests showed I was deficient in, but this doesn’t usually cause any physical symptoms.

Since then I have attended A&E five times in total, often waiting hours to be told that I may have an inflamed rib, a pulled muscle, or that I may be experiencing panic attacks or a form of anxiety. Each time the symptoms are roughly the same: left-sided chest pain, breathlessness and fatigue, and each time my test results come back normal. The constant worry that I am about to have a heart attack has been difficult to deal with, and my quality of life has been impacted by the pain and worry.

In rare instances, there are reports of heart inflammation caused by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but this usually clears up within a few days. There is also a lot of false information around online about Covid vaccines and there are various conspiracy theories about the jab. But amongst the paranoia there also seems to be people, like me, who claim to be suffering from chest pain long after their vaccines.

Like me, these people had seen various doctors about their symptoms, and been offered various explanations, ranging from stress and anxiety, to costochondritis, an inflammation of the rib cage, and trapped nerves. But in my case the timing of the symptoms, and the lack of any other possible trigger, led me to think that I was experiencing a side-effect of my Covid vaccine from July.

It was only when I spoke to one of the GPs at my local practice that I felt I was finally being taken seriously. He, a man in his late forties, was also suffering from the same, unexplained pain in his chest. He’d had numerous investigations into the cause, with no diagnosis, and he was simply learning to live with his symptoms while continuing to work as a GP.

Sympathetic to what I was experiencing, he referred me for an echocardiogram and other tests, which I am still waiting for. It was a relief to know that somebody else was going through what I was, but my GP has also been cautious not to offer me any false hope of an answer. For the time being, our symptoms are medically unexplained.

But we do not appear to be isolated cases. Many people on social media are claiming to suffer from a similar condition, and while not all of their stories may be accurate, it seems clear to me that this is something which should be looked into properly. It seems unlikely that so many different people would be making up such similar symptoms and yet, at the moment, there is no attempt underway to research this elusive condition. One reason is perhaps that A&E departments across the country are under intense pressure this winter, meaning those presenting with chest pain post-vaccine have slipped under the radar.

I do not regret having the Covid vaccine and would suggest that people still get vaccinated to protect themselves from the virus. Adverse reactions to the vaccines are still extremely rare, and despite the pain I am continuing to go through, I feel fortunate not to have contracted Covid or have become seriously ill. But I do feel that this condition should be researched and chronic chest pain following the vaccines taken more seriously.

As somebody who took the vaccine when it was offered, I tried to do my bit for the health service. It seems only fair that the health service repays this by investigating the adverse reactions of people like me, so that the public faith in vaccines and their safety can be assured.

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