Caught between a rock and a hard place, a Maltese man who suffers from ear-related problems has pleaded with Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci to exempt him from the COVID-19 booster.
“We’re forcing people to choose between their health and their social rights, which is ridiculous,” Adam Ben said in a heartfelt video.
“I urge the Superintendence to reconsider their standards on official exemptions because they are changing people’s lives and aren’t helping everyone.”
“There are people who suffered in silence after getting vaccinated, and the least you can do to thank them for the solidarity they showed with you last year by staying silent is to leave their lives intact.”
In 2015, Adam came down with vertigo and tinnitus was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease or vestibular disease. While his condition improved over the years, some damage was long-lasting.
Adam said his tinnitus returned a few hours after he received his first COVID-19 vaccine last year, and that he even suffered temporary high-frequency hearing loss.
The tinnitus aggravated again after he received his second shot, which he took for travel purposes, and a doctor prescribed him steroids.
A medical certificate seen by Lovin Malta states that Adam “has a history of vestibular hypofunction as well as tinnitus in both ears which was accentuated after being vaccinated against COVID”.
“As everyone who experiences sudden hearing ability changes knows, there was an adjustment period,” he said. “I spent five months depressed, unable to properly sleep or work, and I joined a Facebook group of people who coincidentally felt the same after getting vaccinated, including Dr [Gregory] Poland, who used to work with the CDC.”
“Recovery doesn’t mean your hearing returns to normal, but that you get used to the noises and can rest again.”
Following Health Minister Chris Fearne’s announcement that strict new rules will come into force on 17th January, limiting entry to restaurants, bars, gyms, sports events and other venues to adequately vaccinated people, Adam sought an official exemption from the booster.
“Although I want to get the booster and have peace of mind that I can travel where I want without fear of COVID-19, this isn’t my reality,” he said.
“After seeing how other 30-year-olds were alright after getting COVID-19 and after going through such an ugly period post-vaccination, one would have to be crazy to get the booster.”
However, his request was dismissed, with the national COVID vaccine advisory team telling him in an email that “there is no current medical data or evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines are ototoxic”.
“Vestibular conditions are intrinsic and may be triggered by any factor including treatments, illnesses or stress,” the email reads.
“Medical exemptions are decided on a case by case basis by a team of experts in immunisation where evidence-based and real-world, peer-reviewed data is used to reach a decision.”
“Obviously each country has its own laws and regulations regarding Covid mitigation measures and no country is obliged to emulate other countries, not even between EU member states. The benefits of a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh any perceived risks.”
While Adam believes that the vaccine “is a necessary weapon to defeat the pandemic”, he warned that the authorities’ logic is completely back to front.
“Peer-reviewed studies are carried out to provide the public with general recommendations, for example a doctor can’t say that the vaccine will harm your ears, but they should never exclude special, individual cases of people who apply for exemptions.”
“This breaches patients’ rights, trying to shut them up because there aren’t enough studies linking the vaccine to their condition. So because there aren’t enough studies, they are taking a risk with you instead of protecting you, even when there is enough evidence on your medical certificate and prescriptions that the vaccine harmed you individually.”
“Many people are applying for exemptions and either getting refused or not even receiving a response.”
Noting that countries like the UK and Austria specifically grant vaccine exemptions, he suggested that Malta’s reluctance may be stemming from the government’s desire to be viewed as the most vaccinated country in Europe.
“We’re forcing people to choose between their health and their social rights, which is ridiculous.”
“There was a very good voluntary uptake of the vaccine last year, but we don’t need to force everyone to get the booster now, particularly if the first two doses harmed them.”
“I understand that not everyone needs an exemption but some people do. Let’s not treat them like criminals.”
Adam said he will file another exemption request in a few weeks’ time and warned the authorities he could take some kind of action if it’s rejected.
“Don’t let people like me who trusted you become your vulgar enemies because it won’t suit you,” he warned. “The EU has already undermined you over airport restrictions and the validity period of the vaccine certificate; don’t let all the great work you’ve done evaporate as a result of a loss in public trust.”
What do you make of Adam’s appeal?