Joan Wakefield has barely been able to walk for the best part of six months. The 72-year-old from Stockport had a knee replacement in October and has since suffered infections in the scar tissue, causing agonising pain.
‘I couldn’t believe it. I joked with my partner about whether the vaccine had anything to do with it. Previously, I couldn’t even bend my leg. Now I can extend it fully, and even put my shoes and socks on. I’m optimistic I’ll be able to return to work sooner, rather than later, now.’
It seems ludicrous – a vaccine designed to protect against one virus can, somehow, improve other totally unrelated elements of health.
But Joan Wakefield is far from alone.
Last month, Mail on Sunday GP Ellie Cannon wrote about the curious case of a man with Lyme disease who’d found his long-term fatigue had evaporated just days after having the Covid vaccine. Scores of you wrote in to tell similarly miraculous tales.
One has seen stubborn patches of eczema on her arms, legs and midriff mysteriously disappear within hours of having the jab. Another claimed that dizzying vertigo she’s battled for 25 years vanished four days after her shot.
Meanwhile, a woman wrote that her husband had enjoyed a full night’s sleep for the first time since his diagnosis of a sleep disorder 15 years ago. Even more bizarrely, some claimed to have been left in better health having contracted the virus itself.
One 95-year-old care home resident was described by her daughter and being suddenly ‘alert and alive’ after having Covid last month.
‘Previously, mum was very frail, losing weight and her voice losing power. We were prepared for the end not to be far away,’ wrote Roz Ellis, from Ilford, Essex.
‘Four weeks after recovering from Covid, her voice is stronger. She stands at the window for ten minutes and she’s put on 3 lb.’
Most readers guess the jab – or infection itself – caused the immune system to leap into action and attack other, niggling health problems. And they might well be right. Scientists have documented unexpected benefits of vaccines for decades – known medically as ‘non-specific effects’.
Studies in the 1970s and 1980s by Danish scientist Peter Aaby found mass measles vaccination in West African communities reduced the risk of child death by a third – but only four per cent of this decline was explained by more people surviving measles.
Also in the 1970s, Russian scientists discovered vaccinating the population against polio reduced death from flu and other infections by up to 80 per cent.
More recently, Dutch and Greek researchers have reported astounding early results from trials looking at whether giving elderly people a vaccine for the bacterial infection tuberculosis – the BGC jab – could guard against other common infections that often land the frail and vulnerable in hospital.
Nearly twice as many infections were seen in the placebo group, compared to the vaccinated participants.
And the BCG vaccine is already used to treat bladder cancer patients with non-invasive tumours – it is administered directly into the bladder to help the immune system fight the cancer.
What’s more, bladder cancer patients who receive this therapy are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, according to a recent Israeli study. But why?
Scientists are unsure as to the exact mechanism. Some indeed suggest vaccines can ‘train’ the immune system, strengthening it.
But Professor Sheena Cruickshank, immunologist from the University of Manchester, doesn’t buy into this theory and insists there’s a different explanation.
She says: ‘The protection we see against other health problems in those who’ve had measles and BCG vaccines is a benefit of not having suffered those illnesses in younger years.
‘Suffering measles, tuberculosis or any other infections we vaccinate against can have long-term detrimental effects on our immune system.’
Studies show they weaken the response to threats and provoke systemic inflammation. Over time, this increases the risk of a host of diseases.