They don’t come much tougher than Alex Mitchell. The 57-year-old scaffolder is a straight-talking, no-nonsense Glaswegian who adores his family and just wants to live a simple life. Happily married to Michelle, with two adult daughters, Alex now finds himself fighting not only for his own and his family’s future but for that of others who suffer from his condition, of whom he is aware of several hundred—nearly all of whom have submitted a Yellow Card report after suspecting that it was a Covid vaccine that wrecked their health.
Alex had never heard of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) when, like millions of other Scots, he did what he thought was the right and necessary thing to do and took the AstraZeneca ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (AZD1222) vaccine. Alex received his first dose on 20 March 2021.
Alex was led to believe that the vaccine was “safe and effective”. He was told that he might have a sore arm, flu-like symptoms, some mild nausea or a slight headache for a day or two after the jab.
No-one told him that VITT was a potential risk. In fact, no-one even offered to share the patient safety leaflet with Alex or told him that the vaccine hadn’t completed any clinical trials.
This was despite the fact that Scottish scientists were among those to have already published research, in January 2021, warning of the need for caution:
This review considers how vaccination with adenovirus vector-based vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus might cause rare cases of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia in some recipients. [. . .]
A contributing factor towards this is the association of vaccinations, specifically those using an adenovirus-based delivery system, with rare instances of severe outcomes including clotting syndromes that have been collectively referred to as vaccine induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). [. . .]
Among the patients that had received adenovirus-based SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and experienced clotting shortly thereafter, the majority had thromembolic events in unusual locations in the body. These events included cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST in the brain), splanchnic vein thrombosis (abdomen) and hepatic vein thrombosis (liver). These patients also presented with moderate to severe thrombocytopenia, and some unfortunately died.
Alex did not have an opportunity to give his informed consent, because vital information was withheld. Following the AstraZeneca jab, Alex soon realised that something was seriously wrong.
Over the next two weeks, Alex developed increasing leg pain. On 4 April 2021, he collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital.
Despite doctors’ desperate attempts to save his left leg, it had to be amputated above the knee on 11 April 2021. He cursed what he thought was his rare misfortune. Alex is naturally left-footed; it would have to be his lead leg that he lost, wouldn’t it?
He was 56 at the time, an age which placed him in Cohort 8 of the Scottish vaccine rollout schedule. Alex was among the first in his age cohort to receive the AstraZeneca jab. VITT is known primarily to affect those under 50. However, a life time of manual labour left Alex with the physical fitness of a younger man. He suspects that this may have been a contributory factor in his survival.
Following the operation, his vascular surgeon told him that she and her colleagues had never encountered anything like it. The degree of clotting they encountered in his leg was unprecedented. Amputation was the only way to save Alex’s life.
Alex and his surgeon immediately completed and submitted the necessary Yellow Card to advise the UK’s regulator of vaccines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), of an obvious vaccine injury. Within a few days of the amputation, the MHRA had all the information they required to investigate the harm caused to Alex by the AstraZeneca jab.
Startled by what they had found, Alex’s surgical team sought further specialist advice, sending their findings to the British Society for Haematology’s Haemostasis and Thrombosis Task Force. Three of the country’s leading experts subsequently confirmed Alex’s VITT diagnosis.
The Task Force contributed to the Expert Haematology Panel, which, on 20 April 2021, became the first authoritative medical organisation in the UK to produce VITT information for patients. There is no doubt about the cause of Alex’s disability: it was his Covid injection.
On 29 June 2021, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its treatment advice for VITT. It stated:
This guideline covers vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT), a syndrome which has been reported in rare cases after COVID-19 vaccination. VITT may also be called vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) or thrombotic thrombocytopenic syndrome (TTS). [. . .]
This guideline was produced to support clinicians to diagnose and manage this newly recognised syndrome.
Discharged from hospital, Alex returned home to embark upon the long road to recovery and the immense challenge of coming to terms with his loss. As with other VITT sufferers, the problems he and his family faced were considerable.
He hadn’t simply lost his leg. He’d lost his income, his confidence, his physicality, his hopes and his sense of who he was. He had acquired physical, emotional and psychological pain. Anxiety about his and his family’s future threatened to overwhelm him at times.
Twisting the victim’s words
The vaccine injury had left Alex with other health problems. He experienced brain fog, fatigue, loss of appetite, vertigo and a muscle pulsing sensation that felt like electric shocks. He decided to use his convalescence as an opportunity to learn everything he could about what would soon become known to medics as VITT. He discovered that there were at least another 430 VITT sufferers in the UK, nearly all of whom had also submitted Yellow Cards.
He reached out to many of them, joining their online support groups, where he learned yet more about VITT and its complications. Some had lost their sight, others had permanent tinnitus, and more than 70 people were strongly suspected to have died from VITT.
Alex is a doer. His injury had robbed him of his occupation but, beyond the challenge of his recovery, he had found a new cause to engage him. He decided he would try to highlight the plight of VITT sufferers.
Prior to his vaccine damage, Alex was well known within the Scottish scooter enthusiast community. A professional photographer he knew, who had previously taken some shots of Alex and his scooter, had some contacts within the mainstream media.
Working together, they tried to get Alex’s story into the newspapers. Alex’s objective was to alert as many as possible to thrombotic vaccine injury (VITT) and to raise awareness of the problems that he and his fellow VITT sufferers faced. He wanted to highlight suffering that he now knew was being overlooked.
He was therefore delighted when one of Scotland’s most widely circulating newspapers, the Sunday Post, agreed to run his story. Alex was interviewed and eagerly anticipated publication. Doing something to help the VITT community mattered to him. It was a crucial part of his recovery journey.
On 2 May 2021, the Sunday Post published its write-up, entitled One in a million: Inspirational amputee urges everyone to get the Covid vaccination despite incredibly rare side-effect that nearly claimed his life.
Contrary to the dramatic verb in the headline, Alex did not “urge” everyone to get the vaccine. The body of the Sunday Post article stated:
His priority is the battle ahead and ensuring no one is discouraged from getting the vaccine due to his ordeal.
This wasn’t true either; Alex had intimated no such thing. His priority was to raise awareness of the VITT injuries caused by the AstraZeneca jab.
Alex is not a so-called ‘anti-vaxxer’. He took the vaccine because he believed it was important. To this day, Alex is not opposed to vaccination in principle; he just wants others to be aware of the risks associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and VITT.
Alex understood the stigma associated with the term ‘anti-vaxxers’. For example, a few months before COVID-19 emerged, the Daily Mirror had published an article in which they claimed that any “stupid, abusive” parent who chose not to vaccinate their child was guilty of infanticide.
This kind of mainstream media vitriol markedly increased during the so-called COVID-19 pandemic. Stories about "vaccine deniers" and COVID vaccine “refuseniks” were commonplace.
Alex had given some thought to what he wanted to say to the Sunday Post. He did not wish to detract from his efforts to promote awareness of vaccine induced thrombocytopenia (VITT), or those injured by it, by being falsely labelled an ‘anti-vaxxer’. So, during the interview, he made remarks which were written up as:
This is so rare it isn’t going to happen to many other people so it shouldn’t deter anyone [from] having the vaccine. I had it because I want things to go back to normal as soon as they can. And the only way we can do this is by being vaccinated.
His priority was to draw public attention to VITT, not to promote vaccination. Equally, though, he didn’t want to deter anyone who just wanted to get back to normal; he didn’t think it his place to do so. Alex believes in freedom of choice.
Unfortunately, with regard to VITT, the Post editorialised:
[T]here is no reliable data on it yet.
This wasn’t true either. On 7 April 2021—almost a month prior to publication of the Post’s piece—the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had issued an official recommendation that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets” should be added to the official warning information for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
VITT had already been identified in the Scottish research paper and elsewhere, hence the subsequent naming of the condition. Although the condition was at that time yet to be formally designated as VITT, the EMA reported:
[T]he committee took into consideration all currently available evidence, including the advice from an ad hoc expert group. EMA is reminding healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within 2 weeks of vaccination. [. . .]
The Committee carried out an in-depth review of 62 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and 24 cases of splanchnic vein thrombosis reported in the EU drug safety database (EudraVigilance) as of 22 March 2021, 18 of which were fatal.
Effectively, then, the Sunday Post decided to insinuate—by omission—that this decision to warn, the science and the data it was based upon were unreliable. Indeed, the decision itself didn’t even warrant a mention.
Contrary to his wishes, it seems that the mainstream press span Alex’s story as an example of manfully shouldering social responsibility, so as to push Covid vaccination. They did so while assiduously skirting the primary reason why Alex had agreed to the interview in the first place.
Alex maintains that the Sunday Post also attributed comments to him that he simply did not make. The Post reported that Alex had said:
It’s only going to affect maybe one or two people, so don’t let it put you off.
Alex categorically denies that he said any such thing. He does, on the other hand, recall saying to the interviewers:
I am among the rarest people in the world—but please do your research and make up your own mind.
Consequences of misrepresentation
As a result of the Sunday Post article, Alex was then faced with online abuse. Some, convinced he was an ‘anti-vaxxer’, berated him, calling him a “denier” and a “refusenik”; no throwaway lines, but terms misappropriated from the Nazi and the Stalinist legacy respectively. At the other extreme, others, who questioned the COVID-19 vaccines, blamed him for supposedly letting himself be disabled by VITT. They said he “deserved everything he got”.
Alex’s faith in humanity was shaken to the core, right when he needed it the most, let down by the mainstream media and attacked for simply trying to do what he thought was right. He bitterly regretted ever having agreed to the interview.
The article left Alex feeling disillusioned and betrayed. This was the last thing he needed so early on in his recovery. It hit him hard and he reached his nadir when, having spent years restoring his scooter to its original glory, he had to let go of it.
Alex knew that he had to try to recoup some of the income his family had lost. He didn’t have a clue how to go about that. When he was discharged from hospital, the NHS did not provide him with any information about his possible financial entitlements.
Alex remains eternally grateful for the skill and dedication of the NHS medical team who saved his life. He is less enamoured of NHS and public health policymakers.
It was Alex’s own independent research that led him to apply for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in late April 2021. PIP is a non-means-tested benefit for people who have “a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability”. Having worked for all his adult life, Alex had already contributed significantly to the state welfare coffers but, nonetheless, it was reluctantly that he applied.
A UK resident who is considered by PIP assessors to have at least a 60% disability could receive up to £156.90 per week. While this maximum amount still meant a massive loss of income for Alex’s family, at least it was something. He had no choice.
Alex also discovered that he was theoretically eligible for a UK Vaccine Damage Payment. Potentially, Alex’s family could receive a one-off lump sum of up to £120,000. Combined with PIP, while this wouldn’t cover the loss of his future earnings, at least it would secure some sort of immediate financial future for the Mitchell family.
Rather than support Alex’s recovery, it seems the Government decided in a rather literal sense to add insult to injury wherever it could. Many disabilities, such as autism or mental illness, are invisible. Having lost your leg due to massive vaccine-induced clotting—diagnosed by some of the world’s leading blood experts—and then suffering the ongoing physiological effects of that thrombotic event is not an invisible disability.
Yet it took the Government ten months to pay Alex the PIP that was rightfully his. Alex had no income in the interim and the family survived on their rapidly dwindling savings and Michelle’s earnings. The financial pressures were an additional worry for the whole family; one they could certainly have done without.
The situation was hardly helped when the NHS sent Alex a reminder to book his second AstraZeneca jab. He decided not to take them up on their offer.
The scheme that likes to say no
Remarkably, Alex Mitchell’s fight to access urgently-needed benefits was as nothing compared to his struggle to obtain the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) sum that he is equally entitled to. At the time of writing, more than a year after Alex applied, not only has he not received a decision; he can't even communicate with the decision-makers.
This is despite the fact that the UK Government, using the surreptitious means of secondary legislation, did extend the VDPS to include COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020. Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi conceded, in a typo-strewn form drafted by staff and signed off by him:
Any new vaccine carries a risk of causing very rare adverse events. By including COVID-19 in the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS) this [sic] will ensure that in cases where severe disablement is caused by a government[-]run vaccination programme, there is financial assistance available.
The Government was anticipating VDPS claims from Covid vaccinees. Alex submitted his on 23 April 2021 and received an acknowledgement letter on 2 June. He waited to hear from the VDPS. When would they review his case? What further evidence, if any, did they require? None of this information was forthcoming.
So Alex contacted the VDPS, which at the time was jointly run by two UK Government ministries: the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). He couldn’t get beyond an automated response, so he left a message asking the VDPS to return his call to discuss his case. No-one called him.
Undeterred, he tried again—many times. None of his attempts by phone was successful. Alex decided to write instead. Still, he received nothing.
The months rolled by and, in November 2021, the DHSC and DWP outsourced responsibility for the VDPS to the National Health Service Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). According to their official announcement:
From November, the NHSBSA will contact existing claimants directly with more information about their claim and who to contact if they have any questions or concerns. Claims will continue to be clinically assessed by an independent team of experienced medical advisers.
No-one contacted Alex. So Alex contacted the NHSBSA, finally with some success.
The VDPS process is that claims will be “clinically assessed by an independent team of experienced medical advisers”. Alex asked which “experienced medical adviser” knew more about VITT than his own vascular surgeon and the three Task Force haematologists who had confirmed his diagnosis. Why wasn’t the medical evidence that they had provided to the VDPS enough to settle his claim?
The response was simply that these other—unknown—“independent” experts must confirm that Alex was damaged by the jab and that he is at least 60% (i.e., severely) disabled. Frustrated, but accepting the stipulation, Alex pointed out that there had been no additional assessment of his case by anyone involved with the VDPS. He asked when such an assessment might actually take place—to which the response was that the NHSBSA couldn’t give a commitment.
The VDPS appeared to be completely useless, as far as Alex could determine. He understood how devastating VITT is to people’s lives. He couldn’t help but wonder whether these unnecessary stressors had contributed to the deaths of the three other VITT sufferers whom he knew to have taken their own lives.
He was deeply concerned, not just for himself but for all the VITT sufferers who had shared their almost identical VDPS compensation (and PIP benefits) experiences with him. Alex could barely believe the situation. Not knowing where to turn, he sought the support of his Member of the Scottish Parliament.
Having considered his case, she offered assistance and set about pursuing his claim with him. Her support has proven invaluable for the Mitchells. At least they now know that someone in a position to help cares about their situation. Alex can’t thank her enough.
Unfortunately, even the intervention of a Scottish parliamentarian has yet to resolve the situation. Eventually, she received a written response, which she shared with Alex. It made difficult reading.
There was no acknowledgement of Alex’s frequent attempts to engage with the DHSC and DWP in Whitehall and later the NHSBSA. There was no record of the communication he had managed to have with them, nor any of the medical evidence he had submitted. There wasn’t even any account offered in the response of the MSP’s own attempts to progress her constituent’s case.
In December 2021, Alex submitted a Freedom of Information request, asking the VDPS how many VITT claims its administrators had received. They responded:
We do not routinely record data about the disablement or disabling condition of each claimant. Identifying a claimant’s disablement or disabling condition is not a requirement of the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme (VDPS). Many of the disabling conditions can also occur spontaneously in unvaccinated children or adults.
This reply makes no sense. VITT is proof of vaccine damage. Besides vaccination, there is no other way to be struck down by the condition.
As the NHSBSA makes no effort to identify the claimant’s “disablement or disabling condition”, it is able effectively to discount VITT and instead to maintain that its staff need to investigate VITT claims in order to ascertain whether disablement occurred “spontaneously”. That is an impossible task. The VDPS appears to be a system designed to ignore vaccine injury.
If the NHSBSA does acknowledge VITT—which it seems not to—the only other question relevant to a payout decision is the degree of disablement sustained. For a payout, the VDPS must consider this to be “severe”. Alex had his leg cut off and had multiple other health complications caused by VITT. That’s why he eventually received PIP benefits.
Alex’s frustration was now shared by his MSP. She stayed on the case, continuing to pursue the NHSBSA for a resolution. They offered no further response.
Alex resorted to social media. Suddenly, in response to his tweet on 28 February 2022, the NHSBSA’s Complaint Resolution Manager communicated with Alex and his MSP. It occurred to Alex that he should have used Twitter from the start instead of the official channels.
Alex requested confirmation of receipt of records and a timeline review. His MSP wrote a letter to the NHSBSA requesting the same. She shared the response with Alex—and again he was flabbergasted.
Framing him more or less as a vexatious complainant, the NHSBSA said that they had tried to contact Alex on several occasions but that he had not responded. Alex was largely housebound through much of this period, and he is certain that neither the DHSC, DWP nor the NHSBSA made any of these alleged attempts to communicate with him.
Driving down the figures
It became increasingly clear to Alex that the entire system was geared towards minimising the recognition of vaccine injury. Vaccine-damaged people were denied and marginalised. Their existence was an inconvenience to be overlooked wherever possible.
Alex and his vascular surgeon submitted their Yellow Card in good faith to the MHRA. Alex has also helped other VITT sufferers to submit theirs.
The MHRA states that its role is to “protect and promote public health and patient safety”. To this end, the MHRA claims that the Yellow Card system is vital:
The purpose of the scheme is to provide an early warning that the safety of a medicine or a medical device may require further investigation. It is important for people to report problems experienced with medicines or medical devices as these are used to identify issues which might not have been previously known about.
VITT is straightforwardly COVID-19 vaccine-induced. Its medical name as a diagnosis is, in and of itself, evidence of a vaccine injury sustained from a vaccine. Yet, if you search the MHRA Yellow Card records for VITT, it is entirely absent.
VITT is sometimes referred to as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome. The MHRA has recorded 25 such adverse events, and no fatalities.
As described above, Alex knows that nearly all of the 430 identified people with a VITT injury have submitted Yellow Cards. The evidence clearly suggests that at least 70 people have been killed by it. So far, none of the survivors has heard anything from the MHRA—and none, including Alex, have any faith that the MHRA has investigated anything.
No vaccine injuries could be more obvious than those caused by VITT. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to posit that the MHRA is reporting at most 6% (the ratio obtained by 25 of 430 known VITT submissions) of the COVID-19 vaccine-related Yellow Cards that it has received. There is no evidence that it has investigated any VITT Yellow Cards that it has received.
The above-mentioned Scottish research paper, published in January 2021, noted that “[t]hese patients also presented with moderate to severe thrombocytopenia, and some unfortunately died.” The EMA stated that it knew of 18 VITT deaths in the European Union. Yet the MHRA has recorded no VITT deaths at all in the UK, with a population one-sixth that of the EU and a Covid vaccination take-up rate far higher than that of almost all EU member states. It seems, then, that the MHRA is not reporting suspected COVID-19 vaccine deaths accurately.
The MHRA, the British regulator with the relevant duty, has not investigated VITT, doesn’t acknowledge it by name, and is effectively denying that the most obvious COVID-19 vaccine injuries even exist. Statements from people like the Chief Executive of the MHRA, Dame June Raine, that the vaccines are "safe and effective" are not based upon any appreciation of the relative risks. The MHRA’s appraisal is meaningless.
Increasingly angered, Alex decided to do some more research. What he discovered convinced him that, in order to receive anything from the VDPS, he would need to steel himself for a lengthy battle.
In 21 years, between January 2000 and June 2021, there were 2,347 claims made to the VDPS and the scheme paid out on just 41. The success rate for a VDPS claim is thus 1.7%.
Solely in relation to the COVID-19 vaccines, in less than 12 months, from the roll-out in December 2021 to the week ending 18 February 2022, there were 920 claims made to the scheme. With a prior average annual claim rate of 112 per year, that represented at least an 800% increase in claims: a rise attributable solely to the COVID-19 vaccines.
The evidence clearly suggests that these reported statistics represent a mere fraction of the real total. Alex’s is one among that alleged number. It dawned on Alex that of those 920 people, given the VDPS track record, just 16 would be likely to receive a settlement.
Alex already knew of at least 430 VITT sufferers. Among them were people who had been blinded, driven half mad by tinnitus, lost limbs, their careers, their families and their lives. In response, as far as he could tell, they were ignored, their living conditions destroyed and their stories forgotten.
Having been convinced by the government to take the AstraZeneca’s jab, and then severely disabled as a result, Alex has now reached the conclusion that the state is now unwilling to discharge its responsibility to him and other people damaged by the vaccines. This is not something he is prepared to tolerate.
As well as the support of his MSP, Alex has sought legal counsel to challenge the VDPS in court. He wants to know how the scheme’s operators can justify their decision-making process and is determined to stop them ignoring his own case—and, more importantly for Alex, the cases of all his fellow VITT sufferers. The VDPS has picked a fight with the wrong man.
The UK Government’s stated commitment to compensate those injured by vaccines has not gone unnoticed by some Westminster politicians. For example, when Sir Christopher Chope MP (Christchurch and East Dorset) discovered that the the VDPS has yet to pay out on a single Covid claim, he raised the issue in Parliament.
Like Alex and Alex’s MSP, alongside many others who have pursued the issue of vaccine injury and questioned the Government’s Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme, Sir Christopher has found it next to impossible to get any information from either the VDPS or the MHRA.
This is despite the fact that as early as May 2021, the MHRA acknowledged in its wording that the benefits of vaccination outweighed the risks for “most people” not for “all”. This was tacit acknowledgement that the risks did outweigh the benefits for some.
Using his parliamentary privilege, Sir Christopher has asked the MHRA some basic questions which remain unanswered:
- Which conditions most frequently arise from vaccine injury?
- Which vaccines are associated with the most serious adverse events?
- In how many of the more than 2,000 cases of suspected deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccines has vaccination been ruled out as a possible cause?
- What are the MHRA doing to alert people of the risks?
The long-standing constitutional norm that an executive agency should deliver a response within a week of a parliamentary question has been cast aside by the MHRA. This has led Sir Christopher and others to wonder whether the MHRA is discharging its duty to protect the public at all.
Bloodied but unbowed
How can people access the payments to which they are entitled while this apparent official refusal to investigate vaccine injury persists? Alex is among thousands who now recognise that they must fight to be heard, struggle to assert their rights and try to alert others to the COVID-19 vaccine risks.
For Alex, the only good thing to come from this battle is that some of his faith in humanity has been restored. He has met people along the way, such as his MSP at Holyrood, who have shown him that good people still exist in public life.
Alex says that he doesn't think he would have made it this far if it were not for the wonderful community of VITT sufferers who are actively assisting each other as much as they can.
He particularly wants to thank all his VITT network, Iain Clayton and Dr Kat Lindley for their unwavering support.
He is also grateful to have found the Scottish charity Finding Your Feet, which support amputees across Scotland. Something he really does urge people to do, and not just in a lurid headline, is to show their support for that charity.
But most of all, he wants to thank his wife Michelle, his two daughters Sophie and Jennifer, and his relatives. His family means everything to Alex.