B.C. man among first approved for Canada's Vaccine Injury Support Program still waiting for compensation
A B.C. man, who was among the first Canadians approved for Canada's Vaccine Injury Support Program, says he is frustrated with the length of time it is taking to receive compensation.
Ross Wightman of Lake Country, B.C., was left partially paralysed after receiving a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in April 2021. Within the first few days of receiving the shot, he had developed severe pain in his lower back and hamstrings.
"And then 10 days after my shot, I ended up in the ER four times," he told CTV's Your Morning on Tuesday. "(It was) a bit of a mystery diagnosis originally, but the fourth time, I started presenting with facial paralysis and that's when my life really got flipped upside down."
Wightman was hospitalized for 67 days. He had developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare condition where the individual's immune system starts to attack the body's nerves. B.C.'s Centres for Disease Control says the likelihood of developing the condition after being vaccinated is around one in 700,000.
Wightman's application for the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program was approved in May. But since then, he still hasn't received any compensation. He said Health Canada still needs to approve his income replacement paperwork and expenses.
"It was very tedious and frustrating for the first probably eight months, just not being able to get constant communication or any sort of answers," Wightman said. "I'm still out hundreds of thousands of dollars and whatnot of monetary expenses over the last 16 months."
As of June 1, 2022, the program says it has received 774 claims of vaccine injury. Only eight have been approved and 71 have been deem inadmissible. There are also 553 claims in the process of collecting medical records while 23 are pending an assessment from a medical review board.
The program has not disclosed how much in financial support has been paid out, citing "privacy reason" given that "not all claimants that are approved have had their payment processed."
Prior to his diagnosis, Wightman had been a realtor and a commercial pilot. He says he lived an active lifestyle.
"I was in the gym five, six days a week. I hate to toot my own horn, but if you ask most people, they'd say I was one of the fitter people around and just felt that there was really nothing that I couldn't do," he said. "My life is very, very, very different. It's a far resemblance of just a short time ago."
Wightman says he has since made significant progress in his recovery and can walk again with the help of special braces for his legs, but said he still feels like "a fraction of the man" he used to be.
"(I'm) just trying to stay positive and still put in the work on this marathon I'm on and trying to keep my head high," he said. "I try and preoccupy my life with family and friends and recovery. That's some sort of therapy every day that I'm involved with."