“Everyone is having it. It will protect you for the rest of your life.” That’s the message 17-year-old Stacy Moon got about the hepatitis B vaccine when a public health nurse wanted her to have it. It sounded good, so Stacy agreed to have the recommended 3 doses. Six hours after receiving her 3rd dose at Penticton Health Unit, the teenager began to feel tingling in the fingertips of her right hand. Within a few days, numbness had spread up her arm; she couldn’t hold a pen or glass or even open a door. By the 3rd week following the shot, Stacy was numb from her toes to her ribs, couldn’t hold her balance and found it difficult to walk. In the following few months visits to her doctor, neurologists and Vancouver for an MRI scan resulted in the diagnosis…multiple sclerosis, MS!
Right from the start, Stacy and her mother thought the Hep B shot was to blame. The pair spent countless hours doing research to verify the possibility of a connection. Stacy obtained the vaccine package insert which she should have been shown before receiving her first shot, and was shocked to find MS listed, along with lupus, Parkinson’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, SIDS and autism as rare but possible adverse reactions. A UBC MS specialist agreed with their conclusion that the vaccine brought on the MS and was to be the pivotal witness in a lawsuit they filed against the Medical Services Commission, the Okanagan Similkameen Health Region and SmithKlineBeecham Inc, the vaccine maker. The writ of summons alleged that these defendants knew or ought to have known of the risk of developing MS and should have informed Stacy or her family of this.
The lawyers for the defendants never met with Stacy and her lawyer to discuss the possibility of settling out of court. They did send her letters asking her to drop the case, but she would have none of that. Referring to the vaccine maker, she says, “I was never scared to fight them, even though they are a billion dollar company.” She asked her lawyer to reply telling them to “Bring it on!” However, just when she and her lawyer needed the UBC specialist to testify, he left for New Zealand for 13 months. Stacy felt sabotaged, deflated and suspicious: “I think ‘SmithKline’ paid him to leave. All of the other doctors who were an option at one point, we could not use for my case. I studied the whole Hep B vaccine issue and its astonishing…for long term side effects, basically it has hardly been tested at all, yet they still proceed to vaccinate with it. I have piles of papers explaining everything you would want to know about the hepatitis B vaccine. I thought we could use this information, but because none of it was proven evidence, we could not use any of it. On Nov 4th, 2002 my case went in front of a judge and was dismissed with costs. Now ‘SmithKline’ wants me to pay their lawyer fees. Too bad for them, I have no money. Having MS, I am on a disability pension, which gives me $781.00 per month. It pays my rent, bills, some groceries and gas in my car. The money is usually gone the same day I get it. After all that, I am broke until the following month. Try as they may, they will get nothing from me, it’s a lost cause for them to even try.”
When her disease was diagnosed, Stacy was put on medication to slow its progression. She was angry and suffered from depression, sometimes crying herself to sleep at night. She knew her future had changed the day of her 3rd Hep B shot. It had been her goal to study marketing at BCIT but the limits to how far she can walk and the fatigue she experiences has made attaining that very unlikely. She says “It’s the whole process of walking that makes pretty much everything some sort of task.” In fact, any job prospects are limited due to the unpredictable nature of her disease. Whether she will ever be able to have children is also questionable. One thing she is certain of, is that if she does have children, she will never have them vaccinated.
Today, Stacy’s condition remains fairly stable. She has had to find medication to eliminate bladder problems she developed and is still taking the medication, which slows the advancement of MS. In a way, her disease has made her a stronger person. She still is angry but says, “I have to live with it, and in turn I dealt with it and am doing very well. I can’t just be depressed about something I cannot change.” And she’s determined to have her piece of justice. She says, “I want to make as much noise as I can to let everyone know the dangers of vaccination. I want to go on TV talk shows, get articles in the paper, every paper across Canada. Once ‘SmithKline’ hears what I am doing, they may just pay me to shut up; that was one of their options in the beginning. If there is any way you can help me accomplish this feat, please let me know. I refuse to back down, to let them take advantage of the innocent people and children. I will fight with all I have for as long as it takes. People really need to know this; they need to know what they are doing to themselves and their children before this happens to any more people. So, do your research before going for any vaccine. Please do not put yourself at risk by getting a vaccine you do not need; I am living proof as to what just may happen to you.”
Although Stacy focuses her disgust on the vaccine maker, those who should have provided her full information before obtaining her consent are certainly not blameless. They should have told her that the risk of getting the disease is minimal and, for her age group, may be less than serious risk from the vaccine. Health Canada statistics reveal that during the 4 years, 1997-2000, an average of only 15 teens, 15-19 years old had hepatitis B each year in BC and only 46 in all of Canada. Unfortunately for Stacy, it is a gargantuan task to gain compensation for vaccine injuries in BC and most of Canada. A federal compensation scheme has been proposed and is supposed to be in place by 2005. So far, little has been heard about it. As Stacy discovered, Canada’s legal system requires definitive proof of causality. Due to the limited, often biased and inconclusive scientific studies performed to date, this, in all probability, is impossible to attain. For people such as Stacy we can only hope that, very soon some high quality independent research is funded and uncovers the evidence needed.
To contact Stacy Moon…E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org