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'Completely demoralizing': B.C. men with COVID-19 vaccine injuries frustrated by compensation delays

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The leg braces Ross Wightman now needs to walk cost about $1,500.

Then there’s the Lake Country, B.C., resident’s expenses for physiotherapy, medication and adaptive equipment.

Summerland resident Julian Scholefield has his own lengthy list of expenses, including his wheelchair and the elevator installed in his home so he could access the main living area.

Both men suffered rare, but life-changing injuries after getting their COVID-19 vaccine about two-and-a-half years ago.

Now they are facing another battle as they fight to get compensated for tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical expenses.

“It’s really challenging to be in this situation in the first part and then to have to fight tooth and nail to get what they say they’re going to provide is completely demoralizing,” said Scholefield.

Both men were approved for compensation through the federally-funded Vaccine Injury Support Program and have received payments, including ongoing monthly support as neither can work. But they said they are also supposed to be getting reimbursed for out-of-pocket medical expenses.

And they’re frustrated by the delays, and said emails and phone calls to the company that administers the program often go unanswered.

“It’s the second case manager I’ve had that has quit and I was not notified that my case manager was no longer working there,’ said Wightman.

“I’ve been waiting for almost a year to hear whether my physical therapy will be covered,” he said.

Scholefield said he submitted his expenses almost a year ago and is still owed about $40,000. Wightman said he sent in expenses about 10 weeks ago and is yet to receive almost $30,000 in repayment.

CTV News contacted Health Canada, which directed questions to OXARO, the independent administrator of the program. OXARO did not respond to CTV’s request for information.

Back in April of 2021, Wightman developed a rare, neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He continues to face ongoing physical struggles.

“I have some tremors now, shaking,” he explained.

He said his hands are a major concern.

“My hand are still quite … affected and dexterity is probably my biggest issue now, along with fatigue,” Wightman said.

He said it’s difficult to pick things up, though there has been some improvement.

“Eating and drinking and writing … anything you can think of that you use your hands for is tough,” he said.

He no longer has to use a wheelchair or walker to get around, but relies on specialized leg braces.

Scholefield, 46, spent 89 days in hospital and became paralyzed after an autoimmune reaction to the Pfizer vaccine in July 2021.

“I have pretty good mobility through my hips, I can crawl around the floor,” he said, explaining he has seen improvement in his condition.

“Those little snippets of improvement definitely help keep me motivated and keep me going and keep me pushing for more,” Scholefield said.

However, he said there are new pains to endure.

“I’ve gone through lots of nerve sensation and nerve pain and it’s been elevating over time, getting worse and worse,” Scholefield explained.

Wightman said he does his best to be positive, but some days are extremely difficult.

According to VISP, as of December, 2,233 people had submitted claims for compensation. So far, more than 1,800 of those have been deemed admissible, but just 138 have been approved by the Medical Review Board.

More than $11 million has been paid out to claimants since the inception of VISP. 

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