The people left in agony and unable to move their arm after a Covid vaccine

‘My second vaccine was completely different to the first,’ remembers retired school teacher Mary Goodwin. ‘When it was administered it was extremely painful – I yelped when the needle went in and the young man who gave it apologised.’

Mary, 68, is one of at least dozens of people who have suffered unbearable pain after receiving a coronavirus vaccine in recent months – and many are struggling to get treatment or answers.

The former secondary school English teacher, who lives in London, said as soon as she was given her second jab in April this year she ‘experienced extreme pain’ despite having no problems with the first.

She told ‘Immediately I left the hospital to go home – my whole arm felt painful and tingling. From that point onwards I have experienced constant pain and a significant loss of arm and shoulder movement, though it’s slowly returning.’

After weeks turned into months of suffering from constant pain and reduced mobility in her left arm, Mary eventually discovered through her own research that she had a condition called SIRVA, which stands for ‘shoulder injury related to vaccine administration’.

Essentially, SIRVA can occur when a vaccine is injected into the wrong part of the upper arm. It is intended to go into the deltoid muscle but if injected too high it may hit the joint, or if injected too low it may hit a nerve.

This can result in complications including bursitis, frozen shoulder, loss of mobility and pain, and can heavily affect daily life for those affected.

Mary, who is an artist, explained: ‘It has affected my ability to paint – my right arm is unaffected so I can physically do it, but the pain in the left arm saps my energy and creativity, making it harder to produce work or to physically move things around in the studio.

‘If I type things up I know my arm will feel sore as a result. I am also unable to raise my arm sufficiently high to wash under my armpit, switch on a light and I need help putting on clothing like coats or jumpers.’

Carrie Holness, 50, told she received her second Covid-19 vaccine in Swindon, Wiltshire in June. Unlike Mary, she had no immediate side effects – but ‘normal life went downhill’ from the next day.

‘I struggled to dress – every movement was agony and made me cry,’ she remembered.

‘I managed to open the passenger side door of the car with my good arm but once in, I literally just couldn’t move my arm to reach out to close it, and my husband had to put my seatbelt on for me.

‘Our local hospital is a short five-minute drive from us but that is the most excruciatingly painful car journey I’ve ever experienced – every turn and bump reduced me to tears.’

After being checked over she was sent home and told to take codeine painkillers, and contact her GP if her symptoms did not improve within a few days.

But the senior sales administrator claimed when she initially contacted a doctor, she was told ‘a vaccine injection could not have done this to her’.

After months of battling with other GPs and eventually going private, Carrie is slowly getting movement back in her arm and seeing a reduction in pain with help from an osteopath and cortisone injections.

‘Since receiving my Covid vaccine and shoulder injury I have really struggled physically, emotionally, and mentally,’ she added.

‘I could no longer do most of the things I could do before, and quite often cried out of pure frustration from being in constant pain, and feeling so fatigued, lack of concentration, feeling utterly down, depressed, and useless.’

Another sufferer, Antonia Bartley, said she has been in ‘horrible physical pain’ since her first coronavirus vaccination in June.

The 52-year-old, who is based in Buckinghamshire and is a medical biochemist, told ‘My arm hurt so much that I felt that it’d be easier if it was chopped off.

‘The pain is still excruciating. I cannot take off my top, put my clothes on, take my bra off, open the car door or put a seatbelt on, and putting a coat on is a nightmare.

‘I’m worried about this, and it’s affecting my mental health in a bad way.

‘My GP said I was unlucky. What does that even mean? I wasn’t playing the lottery or bingo when I went to get a vaccine.’

Mum-of-three Antonia is currently working part-time in a farm shop, although says she may have to quit as she’s unable to do physical work.

‘My employer knows that I’m in pain, so now I mostly stay at the till and do jobs which don’t include lifting,’ she added.

‘I don’t know how long I can do it, as I feel like it might not be fair towards others who have to lift things instead of me.’

A Freedom of Information request made to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which is responsible for ensuring the safety of medicines and vaccines in the UK – in June found 71 reports of SIRVA in adults up to that date.

There had been under 10 reports each year in 2018, 2019 and 2020 – but that number increased to 57 for just the first half of 2021, presumably due to the introduction of the mass coronavirus vaccination programme.

The reports included injury resulting from all injections – though the majority resulted from a Covid-19 jab – and more than three-quarters of those affected were women.

A training document for healthcare practitioners from September this year also highlights the importance of getting the correct placement for the injection to avoid shoulder injury.

Although these findings already suggest SIRVA is becoming a bigger problem due to increased vaccination numbers, there are several Facebook groups with some hundreds of members – from both across the UK and the world – which could indicate there are many more people suffering who have not reported the problem.

Mary said she has spoken out about her experience because she fears many people are not aware of the existence of SIRVA, particularly if it is not mentioned by a GP.

She added: ‘Although SIRVA is well known in the USA, Canada, and Australia for some reason this is not the case in the UK.

‘So take SIRVA information with you when you visit your GP, or a physio, or a consultant and alert them to the condition if they are unaware of it. Do not be fobbed off.’

Mary – along with the other women in this story – repeatedly stressed she is not an anti-vaxxer, but wants awareness to be raised within the medical community to prevent this from happening in the future and ensure vaccinators are trained to avoid SIRVA.

‘If, as seems likely, there is going to more vaccinations ahead for us all – booster jabs, new variant jabs, and so on – then it is imperative that there are as few reasons as possible why people would feel reluctant to have the vaccine,’ she explained.

‘If news gets around that SIRVA is a possible outcome of a vaccine injection it may well put people taking up the offer of a vaccine.

‘It is imperative therefore that the problem be resolved quickly before it has an impact on take-up of the vaccine.’

Hussain Abdeh, clinical director and superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct, offered some advice for people who may be suffering from SIRVA.

He told ‘SIRVA is an issue that is caused when the Covid vaccine is injected into the shoulder joint. Doing this creates an inflammatory process that damages the musculoskeletal structures.

‘If you have SIRVA, you will find it hard to move your arm and you will also have a pain in your shoulder. These symptoms normally appear within 48 hours of being vaccinated.

‘To manage symptoms, you could start by taking pain medication such as ibuprofen.

‘Your doctor might suggest that you use a prescription medicine if over-the-counter medication isn’t sufficient for you.

‘Rest is the most important factor of treating SIRVA – you need to give the muscles, tendons and ligaments time to recover as this problem often causes inflammation. Resting your body may help to heal the issue and improve recovery.

‘Physical therapy may also help to improve your muscle strength and help you to achieve a better range of motion.’

An MHRA spokesperson said: ‘The MHRA continuously monitors all the potential side effects reported to us and this includes shoulder injury related to vaccine administration, alongside other potential reactions reported to us.

‘The MHRA encourages anyone who believes they have experienced a side effect to a Covid-19 vaccine to report it via Coronavirus Yellow Card.’

NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) did not wish to comment.

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