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The federal government’s payment program for the vaccine-injured is getting a $36 million top up from the feds, but accessing that money is proving difficult.

Of the 2,233 claims made to the Vaccine Injury Support Program, just 138 – a little over 6% – have been approved by the medical review board for the program, which has paid out $11.2 million so far.

The Liberals have allocated an additional $36 million in the recent budget to the Vaccine Injury Support Program, over the next two years.

Oxaro administers the Vaccine Injury Support Program for the feds for all provinces and territories, except Quebec, which has its own program. 

Ross Wightman, who was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre system after receiving a COVID vaccine, was one of the recipients, getting a one-time payout of around $250,000, the maximum offered by the program. He also receives $90,000 annually in income replacement.

“I don’t know if there’s even an amount that would ease the pain,” said Wightman. 

Despite being poked, prodded, and tested for months, doctors were fearful of the consequences they might face from superiors if they officially declared that the vaccines caused Wightman’s injuries. 

He has permanent nerve damage in his hands from the Guillain-Barre. He can no longer work or do simple tasks around the house, resulting in his wife no longer being able to work, as she needs to take care of the household tasks and children.

“Given the extent of the permanent life-changing injuries, a couple hundred thousand dollars isn’t much, that’s for sure. No. It’s just a wake of destruction that’s left behind for family and all that stuff,” he added.

It took months of struggle and jumping through hoops for Wightman to get paid. Even still, he’s struggled with being reimbursed for expenses. He said that he finally received $15,000 for his expenses after “hounding them for four months,” but it was only a quarter of what he’d had to spend. 

Waiting years for payment from the vaccine injury program is the best some could hope for.

Julie Gamble has been dealing with the program for years, only to face being hung up on by the phone and not getting replies to her emails.

She’s connected with many others through various vaccine-injured support groups, only to find that they’ve faced the same struggles — having submitted all of their medical records and hearing “nothing but excuses as to why they’re not getting back to us.”

“Our families have been destroyed. We stepped up to the plate and did what was asked of us. Nothing about this is fair to any of us,” said Gamble.

Gamble says she was permanently injured by the vaccine with polyneuropathy, estimating she has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and lost income. 

She said that her short-term memory is very poor, and she has almost no muscle remaining in her hands. She does not think she will ever work again.

“It’s the biggest regret of my life that I got this vaccine,” she said. 

She almost didn’t get her second shot. After having a “horrific reaction” to the first dose, she said her pharmacist did not want to give her the second. She went to see an immunologist at the pharmacist’s recommendation. Instead, she was admitted to the hospital waiting room and consulted by a doctor, who encouraged her to get the second shot, which she did. 

“On my way home, I knew I’d made a mistake,” she said. “That night, I ended up blind in my right eye. My bladder let go. My eyes were swollen like eggs. I had a rash all over my body, and I couldn’t stay awake. I tasted metal in my mouth.”

Since her injury, Gamble has been trying to connect with people in similar situations online. Any time she posts about vaccine injuries, she said she gets suspended from Facebook and other social media platforms for “false and misleading information.” 

Despite her husband working as much as he can and receiving CPP disability payments, Gamble has had to use food banks to get by.

True North reached out to Health Canada, the Vaccine Injury Support Program, and Oxaro but received no response.