Isolated from the rest of the world, the Australian state of Western Australia (WA) managed to keep Covid out for most of 2021. During that time, almost four million doses of Covid vaccine were administered to the population. WA’s vaccine safety surveillance report for 2021 has just been released and the results are grim: an ‘exponential increase’ in adverse events, with hospitals struggling to cope.
At the outset of the Covid vaccine rollout in Australia in February 2021, Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC Insiders, “The world is engaged in the largest clinical trial, the largest global vaccination trial ever.”
Indeed, never before had billions of people been injected with vaccines that were still in the trial phase and had only been provisionally approved.
This real-world experiment would measure two outcomes: the new Covid vaccines’ safety and its effectiveness. However, in a rush to get needles into arms, the experiment was confounded by Covid infections. In regions where the population was vaccinated while the SARS-Cov-2 virus was spreading, it was harder to differentiate between Covid vaccines and Covid infection’s effects. For example, observational studies have arrived at conflicting conclusions over the degree to which increases in myo- and pericarditis during the pandemic can be attributed to vaccination vs. infection.
There are few regions in the world where most of the population was vaccinated before the spread of Covid in the community. Sealed off from the rest of Australia, and the world, for 697 days, WA’s closed border earned it the moniker of the ‘hermit kingdom’. State Premier Mark McGowan noted WA’s unique role in the global vaccination trial, remarking to a press conference in early 2022, “You see, Western Australia is an experiment. We basically have had very few Omicron cases, we have very high vaccination levels, and we have a very compliant population.”
In the hermit kingdom, strict zero-Covid policies meant that by 31 December 2021, WA had only counted 1,158 Covid cases during the pandemic. At the same time, the McGowan government’s heavily promoted vaccination program and aggressive work mandates ensured that, by the end of 2021, more than 90% of WA’s ‘compliant population’ over the age of 12 had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine.
The Covid vaccine rollout began in Western Australia on 22 February 2021. This means we have nearly a year of vaccine surveillance safety data unconfounded by Covid infection. The data was finally published this month in the West Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS) report for 2021, and the results are breathtaking. Not in a good way.
From the report, “The number of adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) reported to Western Australia Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS) was significantly higher in 2021 than in previous years… due to the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccination program.”
In 2021, AEFIs for Covid vaccines were reported at almost 24x the rate of AEFIs for all other vaccines combined.* The report refers to this phenomenon as an ‘exponential increase,’ which is clearly visible in the accompanying graph.
In 2021, almost four million doses of Covid vaccination were administered to the WA population, with 10,428 AEFIs reported in the same period. 57% of these AEFIs were treated in hospitals or the emergency department (ED). In contrast, a TGA spokesperson told Umbrella News, “the majority of adverse event reports for COVID-19 vaccines have been for common, expected and frequently mild reactions.” As being rushed to the hospital is not mild, either WA is an outlier, or the TGA’s statement is suggestive that being rushed to the hospital is ‘common and expected.’
In the latter half of the year, as AEFIs peaked, the media regularly reported that WA hospitals were under strain, despite the lack of Covid cases. The highest month for AEFI reports was October, the same month that vaccine mandates were announced for most of the workforce, the vaccine eligibility criteria were expanded to people aged 18 and over, and walk-in vaccinations became available.
On 31 October, Premier Mark McGowan told a press conference that hospitals were “under enormous pressure” but that it was hard to know why that was. McGowan speculated that the cause might be a delayed reaction to Covid; however, there were only 16 cases of Covid in the month of October. There were over 1400 AEFI reports for all vaccinations in the same month, most of which were related to Covid vaccination.
A standout finding from the report is that background rates of myocarditis and pericarditis increased by 35% and 25%, respectively. Reported rates of both conditions following vaccination with Moderna’s Spikevax and Pfizer’s Comirnaty were much higher than national rates reported by the TGA in the same period. Shockingly, the risk of pericarditis in the age group in the age group 25-29 years old was 53.5 cases per 100,000 doses of Spikevax. It is perhaps unsurprising that chest pain was the fifth most common reported AEFI for Covid vaccines in 2021.
The report documents other serious and life-threatening AEFIs, which are too numerous to detail here. When the report was compiled, eighty-seven deaths were reported, although only one had been causally linked to vaccination (AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria).
In the absence of Covid infection and the high incidence of AEFIs associated with Covid vaccines during 2021, an investigation is surely warranted. After all, vaccines have been withdrawn for less. Fluvax Junior was withdrawn from the market by the TGA in 2010 following an investigation triggered by 25 reports of febrile convulsion (16 of which were from Western Australia). However, there is no mention of a special investigation in the vaccine safety report. WA Health has not responded to a request for comment.
About the massive increase in AEFI reports after Covid vaccination, the report states, “The high number of reports in 2021 following COVID-19 vaccination reflects higher uptake of COVID-19 vaccination and high engagement from the public and health care providers with the monitoring of vaccine safety.”
There is no mention of the possibility that an increased reporting rate (i.e., not raw numbers, but rate) could partly be because the Covid vaccines cause more AEFIs than traditional vaccines.
Safety surveillance data from the WA experiment shows that, in the absence of Covid infections in the community, and in comparison to traditional vaccines, Covid vaccines are associated with significant harm. The precautionary principle would suggest that the Covid vaccine program should be paused until further investigation can be carried out to determine why WA experienced such an ‘exponential increase’ in AEFIs following the Covid vaccine rollout.
*The WAVSS 2021 vaccine safety surveillance report omits 98 AEFIs for the category ‘all other vaccines’ collected under the active surveillance program, SafeVax. If the report had included the 98 AEFIs, then the proportion of Covid vaccine AEFIs would be 16x all other vaccines (as opposed to 24x, per the WAVSS report).
WA Health was contacted for clarification but did not respond.