Coronavirus

Journalist trolled by anti-vaxxers after promoting vaccine despite developing rare side effect

Journalist Georgia Clark contracted an extremely rare condition that causes heart inflammation after getting a Pfizer jab. Source: Georgia Clark

An Australian journalist has been trolled by anti-vaxxers and conservatives from the US and UK after claiming she’d get ‘vaccinated again’ despite developing a rare side effect associated with the Pfizer jab.

As she was recovering from an extremely rare side effect of the Pfizer jab, Daily Telegraph journalist Georgia Clark uploaded a video from her hospital bed.

In the video, the 27-year-old encouraged people to get vaccinated as she believes the “benefits of the vaccine outweigh any side effects”.  

Her message seemed clear: “Even with this side effect, I would get the jab again. Side effects can be treated, dying from Covid-19 can’t,” she wrote on Twitter.

Ms Clark said she’d spent the night in hospital after developing chest pain a week after getting her second dose of the Pfizer jab.

She was eligible for the Pfizer vaccine due to a medical condition that is not heart-related. 

Ms Clark said doctors believe she developed pericarditis after the jab - a rare inflammatory heart condition that is not life-threatening and can be treated.

Overnight, anti-vaxxers and conservatives from the UK and US used the tweet as a launchpad to share misinformation, flooding Ms Clark’s replies with verbal abuse.

One of the people who retweeted her post was former political aide to President Donald Trump, Sebastian Gorka.

Mr Gorka shared the video with his one million Twitter followers, labelling Ms Clark, “The Ultimate COVID Cretin”.

“Tell me you belong to a Branch Covidian Cult without actually saying you belong to a Branch Covidian Cult,” US conservative talk show host Steven James Deace said of Ms Clark’s video. 

Others on social media accused Ms Clark of having a “mental illness” or being “brainwashed”. 

The Feed has also seen Ms Clark’s video ridiculed in an Australian anti-lockdown Telegram group.

Many people responded to her post with false claims that she could have died and would now have a permanent heart condition.  

Ms Clark told The Feed she believes anti-vaxxers have taken her tweet “completely out of context”, using it “as a vehicle for misinformation.”

“A lot of these anti-vaxxers are conspiracy theorists. No matter what facts you put before them they will be in complete denial. 

“It’s sad to see that they’re behaving that way because it’s that very behaviour that results in this pandemic, this cycle of deaths and people getting sick.”

The experts’ view

Cardiologist Dr Isuru Ranasinghe said conditions of myocarditis and pericarditis are “exceedingly rare” after taking a Pfizer jab and in most cases, quite “benign”. 

“Myocarditis refers to inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis, inflammation of what's called a pericardium, a fibrous sack the heart sits inside,”  Associate Professor of the UQ Faculty of Medicine Dr Ranasinghe said.

As of August 8, just 149 cases of suspected myocarditis and/or pericarditis were reported in Australia from approximately 6.3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr Ranasinghe said the risk of permanent heart damage from COVID-19 is substantially higher than with the Pfizer vaccine. 

“[Myocarditis and pericarditis] are not life-threatening conditions,” Dr Ranasinghe said. 

“Most patients [who contract these conditions] have a short stay in hospital, are treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and come out of hospital without any long-lasting consequences.”

Dr Anita Muñoz is the Victorian chair of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

She told The Feed that GPs are managing an influx of misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccines and the virus. 

“That can be really unhelpful, because it does inform people's decisions, and it can lead to people forming opinions that aren’t based on truth,” Dr Muñoz said.

Dr Muñoz said she’s seen patients with long lists of concerns about both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. She stressed it’s important to respect people’s opinions while providing them with the best possible health advice.

“There have been some unfortunate ideas like the vaccine has a negative impact on fertility, which we know to be totally false,” she said.

“We need to respect people may not know all of the facts, the way a trained clinician knows.

“But if they're willing to sit down and talk with you, then that's to be done respectfully and take it as the golden opportunity it is to provide people with the right information.”

Dr Muñoz said the risk of contracting COVID is far greater than getting side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“I have had two AstraZeneca doses and I definitely put protection against COVID as the single most important thing for me,” she said.

“The most important message that I could give is don't rely on social media or the Internet to make up your mind.

“A tested clinician would be more than happy to sit down and help answer your questions to make sure that you've got access to the facts.”

Ms Clark believes we all need to do our part to fight the virus and getting vaccinated is the best path to freedom from NSW’s current lockdown.

“People might have to make sacrifices,” Ms Clark told The Feed.

“They might develop some mild side effects from the vaccine but you are not only saving your life but potentially saving other people’s lives and helping us get a step closer to freedom.”

SBS has partnered with NSW Health to provide live translations of daily NSW COVID press conferences in Arabic, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Assyrian. You can access those live translations at SBS Arabic24, SBS Vietnamese, SBS Chinese and SBS Assyrian Facebook pages, as well as SBS Radio.