Melle Stewart, an Australian actress renowned for her roles in the U.K. and Australia, including the lead in “Mamma Mia!” and Channel 7’s “Home and Away,” is taking legal action against AstraZeneca following a severe health crisis she attributes to the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.
On May 24, 2021, Stewart received her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Within two weeks, she experienced seizures, lost her ability to speak and became paralyzed on the right side of her body.
Doctors diagnosed Stewart with Vaccine-Induced Thrombocytopenic Thrombosis (VITT), a rare blood-clotting condition linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. She underwent extensive medical procedures, including a craniectomy, to alleviate brain pressure and save her life. Surgeons replaced part of her skull with a titanium plate.
Ben Lewis, Stewart’s husband, recounted the initial uncertainty surrounding her condition.
“It was a relatively new diagnosis. But Melle had zero medical history. She was so healthy. She looked after her body like a temple. After all that was her job. She had never even been in hospital before,” he said. Blood tests later confirmed the vaccine as the cause of her condition, revealing low blood platelet levels and clotting issues.
Despite never having contracted COVID-19, Stewart and Lewis, both involved in the theatre industry, saw vaccination as essential for continuing their profession. Stewart’s speech impairment has significantly impacted her career. “It’s incredibly frustrating. Words are my life and it has gone now. I say the words but getting them out is an issue,” she told The Telegraph. “I am grieving over it. It is hard.”
The government awarded Stewart £120,000 (A$230,000) in recognition of her vaccine-related injuries. However, this amount does not cover the substantial earnings she and Lewis lost, as he paused his career to care for her. Despite her ordeal, Stewart remains a vaccination advocate, having received additional Pfizer vaccine doses.
The couple’s decision to sue AstraZeneca stems from their belief that they were misled by government assurances about the vaccine’s safety. “We had an expectation this vaccine was safe to use but AstraZeneca was not safe to use in this case,” Lewis stated. He emphasized the government’s responsibility to those adversely affected by vaccines, saying, “And while there are only a relatively small number of people injured or worse, it is incumbent on the government to take care of the very few people who have done the right thing for the country and society.”
The UK’s Vaccine Damage Payment scheme, established in 1979 to maintain public confidence in vaccinations, offers compensation to those severely affected by vaccines. However, critics argue that the current payout, unchanged since 2007, is insufficient. To qualify, victims must prove they are at least 60% disabled due to the vaccine, with no financial assistance for those with lesser injuries.
In response to Stewart’s legal case, an AstraZeneca spokesperson expressed sympathy for those affected by health issues and emphasized the company’s commitment to patient safety. The spokesperson noted that the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) fully approved the Vaxzevria vaccine based on its safety and efficacy.
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