A Mayo Clinic expert remains optimistic about COVID-19 vaccines and their role in fighting the pandemic despite experiencing severe ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, after his second shot last year.
Dr Gregory Poland said he was frustrated with the piercing ear ringing, which began 90 minutes after his second COVID-19 shot. He cried recently when he realized he couldn’t hear the silence anymore.
“It’s life changing,” he said.
However, the director of Mayo’s vaccine research group said he does not question his medical opinion or his personal decision, as both are based on research showing that complications are much greater from COVID-19. than vaccine. New data suggests a rare risk of tinnitus linked to vaccination, but Poland said more research was needed.
“There’s no reason why I should escape a side effect any more than anyone else,” he said. “Just because I’m a vaccinologist doesn’t mean I’m immune to side effects. The problem will be figuring out how big the risk of a side effect is and then figuring out what’s causing it.”
Few advocates have been as blunt as Poland, which blamed “ignorance” and “scientific illiteracy” for the delay in COVID-19 vaccinations. Nearly 80% of eligible Minnesotans ages 5 and older have received a COVID-19 vaccine, but the state estimates only 49% are up to date, meaning they’ve completed the initial round and received scheduled boosters. .
Poland said his ringing in his ears is constant, preventing him from falling back to sleep if he wakes up in the middle of the night. He used mental tricks to lower it, imagining a volume dial and turning it down to mentally suppress the ringtone. The doctor said he felt no improvement or irony about his apparent vaccine side effect.
“I have received hundreds of emails and phone calls from people around the world who have had this strange thing happen to them after they received the vaccine,” he said. “Now the next thing you have to say is, ‘Knowing all of this, would you do it again? And the important answer is yes. In fact, I started over. I received my booster dose, my third dose.
The vaccine has proven effective in Minnesota. The roughly 21% of unvaccinated Minnesota adults account for 59% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths since April 2021 and 66% of its hospitalizations, though this is a younger and older population. low risk.
However, health officials worry that waning immunity has already reduced the effectiveness of the vaccine and that a low recall rate could make Minnesotans vulnerable again. While levels of COVID-19 are low in Minnesota, the number of infections is rising slightly due to a fast-spreading coronavirus subvariant BA.2. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 rose from 183 on April 10 to 226 on Monday.
Poland said it was essential to maintain public confidence in vaccines by thoroughly studying side effects and putting them into context. Last year, research identified an elevated risk of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, which was more common in younger men who received the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. But the risk turned out to be greater because of COVID-19 itself.
Mayo last week published a review of 47,999 of its patients who had received a third booster dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and found no increase in serious adverse events, such as myocarditis or severe allergic reactions, by compared to previous doses. Fatigue, nausea and headaches were common, however.
“For every side effect that we know of with the vaccine, the risk of that side effect is much higher because of the disease,” he said. “So I often say to people, ‘How much risk do you want? There’s no risk-free option.’ “
Vaccine skeptics see the balance differently – arguing that any vaccine risk might be unnecessary because there are other ways to prevent and overcome COVID-19. A state capitol event on Wednesday will feature Minnesotans who have reported serious health issues after their injections and will promote anti-workplace legislation and other vaccination mandates.
“Vaccine harm is an inconvenient truth” that politicians and public health officials have failed to acknowledge, said Patti Carroll of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, which organized the event.
Tinnitus was a mystery, affecting one in 10 American adults before the pandemic. The temporary or chronic condition often occurs after infections, but does not produce physical symptoms or show up on imaging scans.
The condition is already a listed risk of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine and is being reviewed by the World Health Organization as a possible rare side effect of other COVID-19 vaccines. More than 15,000 claims of tinnitus following COVID-19 vaccination have been submitted to the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, including 271 claims out of 4.2 million vaccinated in Minnesota.
VAERS provides early warning of side effects, but is not an official tally, as it includes duplicate claims and injuries that end up unrelated to vaccination.
Poland said there have been high-profile reports of COVID-related tinnitus. A Texas restaurateur killed himself last year after battling post-COVID symptoms, including loud tinnitus.
Poland said he wondered if a booster would make his ringtone worse, but followed medical recommendations to get the third shot and improve his immunity. The ringing quieted down briefly, he said, but returned to a higher pitch.
“We follow the same science that we ask everyone to follow,” he said. “The data is clear in terms of the benefits of the vaccine.”