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Gadfly 174

By Robert Macklin


On 29 March I had my first AstraZeneca shot, a little ahead of schedule because for the last three years I’ve been engaged in a rear-guard action against Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – COPD - a polite version emphysema. It’s caused by smoking. I quit 30 years ago, but them’s the breaks.

Since the onset, I’ve kept it stabilised through the regular use of a couple of ‘preventor’ puffers and a commitment to exercise – daily laps of our 10 metre pool and 15 minutes on the rowing machine for almost eight months a year and lots of walking in winter.

The condition has its natural ups and downs. That’s when I take medically prescribed steroid pills or antibiotics for a few days to return to COPD normality. My GP is pleased that we’ve held it reasonably in check.

However, in the few days immediately after my AstraZeneca shot, I was suddenly aware that my lungs felt much more expansive. The 50 laps in the pool – previously bit of a struggle towards the end - were easy as pie.

I kept going and only stopped at 65 because I thought I should stay with the regime. My condition remained like this for more than a week before gradually beginning to taper, though I’m still doing the 50 with an absolute ease.

On April 8, with some hesitation I did a Facebook post to discover if any other COPD sufferer might have had a similar experience. I have only about 250 active fb ‘friends’ and only one reported the same effect publicly while another did so privately.

However, a third one – a longtime friend in the real world – had a cousin in the UK who also had COPD and she told her of my experience. The cousin and I began in journalism together all those years ago and she decided to report it to the UK Lung Foundation ‘chat line’ there to see if it was worth following up. And here’s the good news: she had forty-one replies which included no fewer than eight positives. Two typical samples:

1. ‘I had a choice and chose the AstraZeneca. I don’t know why but I’m great and breathing definitely improved. Could be a coincidence but I’ll take that…I have bronchiectasis which has also been amazingly good. I told my consultant thinking she would laugh at me, but she said that she and her colleagues had several patients with different lung conditions reporting the same.”

2. ‘I have received both AstraZeneca jabs. When I went for my first vaccination I struggled into the vaccination centre and was really breathless. Second time I strolled in and out no problem. My respiratory team said they have noticed a change in me and I am out and about and not needing oxygen as much. Long may it continue.

I had my second jab on a Thursday and in the weekend I was flying. I even did garden work without my oxygen pack. But I struggled again on Monday. Although I’m not that good I’ve noticed my oxygen levels are higher and haven’t used the oxygen very much.’

These reports are of course totally unscientific. As I said in the initial post, I only mentioned it because I saw a news item about a bloke who had long-term Covid and reported similar effects from his vaccination. And I guess it makes some kind of sense since the vaccine targets the respiratory system.

But since the AstraZeneca has been blamed for blood clots affecting less than 1 in 250,000, it’s probably worth a larger, scientific review to see if these reports have a wider – and this time beneficial – application. COPD sufferers around the world would certainly breathe easier.

Can’t wait for my second shot.


robert@robertmacklin.com


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