ANZMES Preliminary survey findings

Introduction

At the request of the ME/CFS community, ANZMES has issued a survey relating to reactions experienced by the community to the COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. ANZMES also sought to ascertain prevalence of Long COVID and COVID-19 infection in the community. The opportunity was also utilised for respondents to express interest in participating in a potential fractionated dosing trial.

This report contains preliminary findings for responses received from 21st October 2021 to 10th November 2021. This survey is still open to capture experiences after these dates, as vaccination decisions are ongoing.

Please note that this survey is classed as a self-report questionnaire which seeks to ascertain the subjective experience of people with ME/CFS and co-morbid conditions. The information collected is therefore anecdotal data. No clinical research has been conducted.

Respondents

  • 395 respondents identify with an ME/CFS diagnosis
  • 144 with Fibromyalgia (some overlap with ME/CFS)
  • 19 with COVID-19
  • 5 diagnosed with, and 32 suspect, Long COVID

The majority of respondents have a clinical diagnosis of ME, with 25 self-diagnosed. Most are unsure as to which diagnostic criteria for ME was used.

Some questions have less respondents, therefore numbers are indicated in the relevant sections.

Functional capacity (pre-vaccination)

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your current functional capacity (with ME/CFS and/or FM and/or Long COVID). Number of responses: 446 responses.

  • 32.3% (144 individuals) are unable to work, confined to their home with a lot of rest required.
  • 25.8% (115) are able to work part-time at home.
  • 25.5* (115) are able to work part-time outside of the house.
  • 9.9% (44) are able to work full-time with mild-moderate symptoms with activity.
    1.1% (5) are able to work full-time without symptoms.
    * These respondents were mostly COVID-19 infection or Long COVID respondents without ME/CFS. 
  • 4.3% (19) are bedbound most of the time.
  • 0.9% (4) are bedbound and unable to care for themselves.

Vaccination rates

The majority of respondents have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccination.

  • 64.5% (296) two doses.
  • 16.1& (74) single dose.
  • 19.2% (88) have not been vaccinated.

Of the 296 with two doses, the duration between doses was 6 weeks or more for 166 individuals and 3 weeks for 130.

Pattern for capacity and reaction

These findings suggest that the more disabling the ME/CFS symptoms, the more prone to a relapse after vaccination but that relapse can occur at any functional capacity state for pwME. This was analysed when there were 241 responses.

Temporarily worsenedImprovedNo changeWorsened into relapseWorsened beyond illnessNot vaccinatedNo answer
Part-time work home228791142
Part-time outside house22317140122
Full-time work mild-mod with activity
ME
FM
Long COVID/COVID


3
2
0


0
0
2


4
1
3


3
1
0


0
0
0


2
0
1


2
0
5
Unable to work, confined to house23
6
3 temp
1518787
Bedbound mostly2003011
Bedbound unable to care for self0001011
Overall ME7220434883020

First dose vaccination reaction and duration

There were 39 individuals who did not experience any symptoms. For those who did experience reactions to the first dose of the vaccine, these were consistent with the expected normal immune response, e.g.: 

  • sore at injection site (300)
  • tired/fatigued (219)
  • Headache (142)
  • nausea/gastrointestinal issues (62)
  • fever/chills (56)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (46)
  • Sleep issues/insomnia (44)

5 people experienced heart palpitations and/or anxiety 3 people experienced skin sensitivity and/or allergy flares, with 2 people experiencing brain fog/cognitive issues.

Forms response chart. Question title: These effects lasted for:. Number of responses: 378 responses.

  • For most people (130) these symptoms lasted 1-2 days.
  • For 93 individuals it lasted 3-6 days.
  • 44 experienced symptoms for 7-14 days.
  • 35 for over 2 weeks.
  • 37 have not recovered.

Second dose reaction and duration

As has been reported by the general public, the findings from this survey suggest that pwME also experienced more adverse reactions to the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. However there were 54 individuals who did not experience any symptoms.

  • e.g. sore at injection site (213)
  • tired/fatigued (209)
  • Headache (139)
  • fever/chills (72)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (48)
  • Muscle aches/joint pain (147)

2 experienced skin sensitivity, 2 experienced fibromyalgia flare-ups, 2 experienced palpitations and/or anxiety symptoms, 2 experienced brain fog/cognitive issues.

Forms response chart. Question title: These effects lasted for:. Number of responses: 319 responses.

  • For 97 individuals these symptoms lasted 1-2 days.
  • For 78 individuals it lasted 3-6 days.
  • 26 experienced symptoms for 7-14 days.
  • 20 for over 2 weeks.
  • 44 have not recovered.

Vaccine effect on state of illness/wellness for 359 respondents

  • 137 (38.1%) experienced no change/stay the same
  • 118 (32.9%) temporarily worsened but have returned to baseline
  • 71 (19.8%) worsened and not returned to baseline – relapsed
  • 22 (6.1%) improved
  • 11 (3.1%) worsened beyond anything experienced in illness to date – severe relapse

289 respondents did not have any new symptoms that they could attribute to the vaccine.

52 stated that they had new symptoms that they could attribute to the vaccine. These symptoms tended to be over-activation of the immune response, e.g. sore throat, swollen neck glands, allergy reactions. Of these 52 – 4 individuals have gastrointestinal issues, 2 experienced more fatigue whilst 1 indicated improved energy.

Clinical care

From 383 responses 314 (82%) were not offered clinical care during vaccination, 15 (3.9%) were offered clinical care, 19 (5%) were unsure. 25 people asked for specific clinical care during the vaccination process. Of those offered clinical care the options were 30 minute observation rather than the normal 15, separate areas with direct nurse observation. Others were advised by their GPs to rest and take antihistamines pre- and post-vaccination.

Caregiving requirements

From 353 respondents 50 require ongoing caregiving for their ME/CFS and/or FM and 70 required care after vaccination. 244 people do not require caregiving before and 230 after.

Fractionated dosing interest

If fractionated / lower dosing had been an option, of 115 responses 48 stated they would have considered it, 23 said they would not consider it and 44 were unsure.

Of 88 responses for those reluctant to have the vaccine, 57 would consider lower dosing options, 10 would not, and 21 were unsure.

Of 124 responses to indicate interest in participation in a potential trial into fractionated dosing, 61 responded that they are interested, 31 may be interested, and 32 are not.

Antihistamine usage

Of 115 responses 45 did not take any pre- or post-vaccination, 70 did.

Reasons for not being vaccinated

Of 1Anxiety/worry/fear about potential adverse reactions, previous adverse reactions to other vaccines, concern about the safety of the vaccine, high ME/CFS symptomatology, chemical sensitivities/MCS/MCAS, not currently well enough to risk adverse reactions.

COVID-19 / Long COVID

19 respondents have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection.

169 respondents have had COVID-19 tests.

5 people have been diagnosed by a medical professional with Long COVID.

32 people suspected they have Long COVID after a viral infection due to ongoing or lingering classic COVID-19 symptoms and having been connected to a location of interest, an overseas hot zone of infection, or have remained unwell after experiencing a viral infection that has not been confirmed as COVID but has the same symptoms.

Symptoms by response from 57 individuals:

  • Fatigue 41 (71.9%)
  • Brain fog/cognitive issues 39 (68.4%)
  • Shortness of breath 31 (54.4%)
  • Flu-like (fever chills, joint/muscle pain, headaches) 25 (43.9%)
  • Gastrointestinal 24 (42.1%)
  • Depression 10 (17.5%)
  • Organ damage 9 (15.8%)

Duration of illness with Long COVID or suspected Long COVID

From 57 responses

  • 14 individuals have been unwell for 18-22 months+
  • 6 individuals have been unwell for  6-10 months
  • 37 for less than 6 months
  • 1 for many years, a pre-COVID infection


Demographic information

From 447 responses, respondents identify as:

  • Female – 391 (87.5%)
  • Male – 47 (10.5%)
  • Non-binary – 7 (1.6%)
  • Prefer not to say – 2 (0.4%)

Age range from 453 responses:

  • Under 18 = 10 (2.2%)
  • 18-24 = 18 (4%)
  • 25-39 = 100 (22.1%)
  • 40-49 = 109 (24.1%)
  • 50-59 = 108 (23.8%)
  • 60-69 = 82 (18.1%)
  • 70-79 = 22 (4.9%)
  • 80+ = 4 (0.9%)

From 447 responses, respondents live in the following regions: 

  • Northland = 36 (8.1%)
  • Auckland = 143 (32.1%)
  • Bay of Plenty = 32 (7.2%)
  • Waikato = 21 (4.7%)
  • Gisborne = 3 (0.7%)
  • Hawkes Bay = 14 (3.1%)
  • Taranaki = 6 (1.1%)
  • Whanganui/Manawatu = 17 (3.8%)
  • Wairarapa = 1 (0.2%)
  • Wellington = 53 (11.9%)
  • Nelson/Tasman = 36 (8.1%)
  • Marlborough = 3 (0.7%)
  • West Coast = 2 (0.4%)
  • Canterbury = 47 (10.5%)
  • Otago = 40 (9%)
  • Southland = 9 (2%)
  • Overseas = 8 (1.8%)
  • Nomadic = 2 (0.4%)