Concerns over rare disorder developed after flu shot have man rethinking COVID-19 vaccine

PITTSBURGH — A local attorney is sharing his story after suffering serious side effects following a flu shot.

Joe Pass had routinely received the flu vaccine for about a decade, until developing an extremely rare disorder following one dose in 2014.

“I was paralyzed,” Pass said. “The only thing I could hardly do was move my right arm... it was hell.”

After numerous tests, Pass was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that affects about 1 in 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s website states that “several things” can trigger it, and “very rarely, people have developed GBS in the days or weeks after receiving certain vaccines.”

Pass spent six weeks in the hospital and months in a rehabilitation program, learning to move again. He feels grateful to be alive.

“I’m lucky.” Pass told Channel 11. “I recovered, and most people do recover from Guillain-Barre.”

With that said, Pass doesn’t feel comfortable receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, especially after Dr. Anthony Fauci originally advised GBS patients to steer clear.

In an interview with a New York TV station, News 12, in December, Fauci said “someone who had a Guillain-Barre reaction, which is a rare neurological reaction to either influenza or the vaccine for influenza... we recommend that those people do not get vaccinated because you might trigger a similar, serious response.”

But, after that, a group of doctors published an open letter to Dr. Fauci, expressing concern over his comments, noting that “no cases of GBS have been associated with the COVID vaccines.”

The CDC published guidance stating people who had GBS “may” get the COVID vaccine, and Dr. Fauci then told a medical journalist with Neurology Today, that he stood corrected.

Pass said he’s done his research but is troubled by a lack of data surrounding how people who previously had GBS have reacted to the COVID vaccines.

For that reason, he doesn’t plan to get the shot, but hopes others who haven’t faced GBS will.

“I feel that the coronavirus vaccine is safe, but I don’t think it’s safe for me,” he said.

“I think everyone should be aware that in all of these vaccines, there are some risks involved, but the benefit I think outweighs the risk, in the current situation, absolutely.”

Pass further emphasizes how rare GBS is, however his law firm has assisted three local individuals who also developed the syndrome after receiving a flu shot. One of them died, he said.

According to Pass, individuals who develop GBS between 3 to 42 days after receiving a flu shot are eligible to collect compensation at a capped rate and receive reimbursement for medical and legal bills via the federal government.

According to “The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program,” the payout serves as a “no-fault  alternative to the traditional legal system for resolving vaccine injury petitions.”

The website states that the program launched in the 1980s, when lawsuits against vaccine companies threatened to cause vaccine shortages.