When Caroline Pover attended her first Covid vaccine appointment at a hospital walk-in clinic in March, 2021 she had no idea how her life was about to change. The 49-year-old was “looking forward” to getting jabbed, as she thought it would mean a quicker return to the volunteer work she loved.

Caroline, from Cirencester in Gloucestershire, was one of millions in the UK to be given the AstraZeneca vaccine as her first dose. Everything seemed fine upon getting the jab and she went home. But nine hours later she claims she was hit with a slew of “scary” symptoms.

Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, she recalled: “I was struggling to breathe, had problems with my heart, I had tremors, I was shaking. I had a loss of cognitive functions. It was pretty scary.”

At the time Caroline had no idea what could have caused this, however, she says the paramedics who attended her believed this could have been a reaction to her Covid jab from earlier that day.

“I didn’t know this could even happen,” she said. “I think there were a lot of people who had no idea that people could have these reactions.

“It was the paramedics who attended me who said this was a reaction to the vaccine. I’m ashamed to say I questioned them because I just could not believe that this was possible.”

It was still very early days for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The pioneering jab had first been rolled out in the UK in January 2021. And it was welcomed by many members of the public and healthcare workers, promising to not only save lives and reduce pressure on the NHS but speed up the end of lockdowns and restrictions.

Covid cases had reached record levels in the UK in January that year, with the Government noting 1,081,081 new cases and 33,283 deaths in that month alone.

While in the majority of cases, people who received the AstraZeneca jab felt no ill-effects, a very small group of people had a very different experience, including Caroline.

But she wasn’t aware of anyone else having any issues. She said: “In the days that followed I tried to find information about it but I couldn’t find anything. I thought, ‘I can’t be the only person in the world who has experienced this’.

“Part of the problem was the hospital staff kept saying it’s too early to know anything about the vaccine, no one knew anything. But I will say they treated me really well, with kindness. I know this is not the case for all vaccine injured people.”

In the week that followed the jab she claims she was then hit with a whole range of other side effects affecting different parts of her body. “Extreme fatigue, I had never had anything like it,” she said.

“I had an increase in migraines – I was in A&E two times that week with excruciating headaches. It was like living with a constant hangover.” Over the next three years Caroline says she was in and out of hospital eight times for various debilitating symptoms.

Most “shocking” to her though was discovering that doctors said she had suffered a stroke. The now 52-year-old said: “I found out two years later they put on my records that I’d had a stroke. No one told me at the time. I was completely shocked. There was no reason for this to happen.”

Caroline had experienced a transient ischaemic attack (also known as a “mini stroke”) when she was younger. This was linked to her having a hole in her heart.

But the hole was fixed with surgery in 2007 and from then on she took aspirin and natural blood thinners to prevent clotting.

“There was no reason for this [the stroke] to happen because I had had the hole in my heart closed many years ago, and had been on aspirin for so long,” she added.

But her blood was clotting more than usual, Caroline said. When samples were taken she described her blood as “dark and thick”.

AstraZeneca has since said that thrombocytopenia syndrome can be a “rare” side effect of the vaccine. This condition causes people to have blood clots and a low blood platelet count.

And last year it was listed by the World Health Organisation as a “serious and life-threatening” adverse effect of the jab. It may have been more than three years since Caroline was given the vaccine but she says she is still living with the side effects.

The business owner and author went from working six or seven days a week to three at a push. She said: “I was a very energetic, active person before. I used to run almost every day and do yoga. I am still living with the impact three years later. I have never recovered.”

She also claims to have spent thousands of pounds on treatments just to maintain some kind of quality of life. “If I stop treatments I become like a zombie,” she said.

She went on to become chair of trustees of UK Covid Vaccine-injured Family (UKCVFamily), a registered charity that supports around 2,000 people affected by Covid vaccines, including those who are injured and bereaved families.

Caroline said: “UKCVFamily are working toward the development of better practical, medical, emotional, and financial support for the vaccine-injured; and to improve the culture and surrounding the topic of vaccine-related harm.

The group has also welcomed the recent decision by AstraZeneca to withdraw its Covid-19 vaccine worldwide. As reported, the company said this was due to a “surplus of available updated vaccines” against new variants of the novel coronavirus.

But it came months after the company admitted the drug could cause thrombocytopenia syndrome. The application to withdraw the vaccine from the EU came into effect on May 7.

Speaking on behalf of UKCVFamily, Caroline said: “We welcome the news of AstraZeneca withdrawing its Covid vaccine, and are thankful that there can be no more people damaged by their product.

“We would love to speak to AstraZeneca regarding our adverse reactions and the support that we need.”

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said they were unable to comment on individual cases but said: “Patient safety is our highest priority.

“From the body of evidence in clinical trials and real-world data, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has continuously been shown to have an acceptable safety profile and regulators around the world consistently state that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of extremely rare potential side effects.

“We are incredibly proud of the role the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine played in ending the global pandemic. According to independent estimates, over six million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over three billion doses were supplied globally.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic.”

The majority of symptoms that could occur from the jab are considered mild and short-term. These include discomfort at the injection site, or feeling generally unwell, tired, or feverish, or a headache, feeling sick or having joint or muscle pain.

This year, WHO said COVID-19 vaccinations saved more than 1.4 million lives across Europe.

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