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‘His death was so needless’: Rory Nairn not warned of vaccine’s myocarditis risk, inquest hears

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Rory Nairn. Photo / Otago Daily Times

A Dunedin plumber who died 12 days after being vaccinated against Covid-19 was not warned of the risks of myocarditis, an inquest has heard.

Rory James Nairn (26) died in the home he shared with his fiancee Ashleigh Wilson 12 days later on November 17 last year.

Coroner Sue Johnson told an inquiry at the Dunedin District Court this morning that it was accepted Nairn’s death was caused by myocarditis, a rare heart condition, and that was likely due to receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.

Wilson read a tearful statement this morning after placing a large photo of her partner at the front of the court.

On it she hung a wedding ring he never got to wear and a mould of their entwined hands made after his death.

“Rory and I had our whole lives ahead of us and so much to look forward to together. That has now gone. His death was so needless and could have been prevented,” she said.

Wilson said the man she had known since the age of 14 was “vaccine-hesitant” but made the decision to get the jab after a celebratory breakfast following the purchase of their dream home.

The vaccinating pharmacist, whose name was suppressed, said patients at the time were not warned about myocarditis because of its rarity, but she confirmed she was aware of it.

Counsel for the Ministry of Health Ben Finn asked whether the seriousness of the side-effect suggested people should have been specifically advised, citing documents distributed by the Immunisation Advisory Centre.

“That’s not what I was instructed to do at the time by work,” said the pharmacist.

Later that night at a family dinner, Nairn said his chest felt “weird”.

“This conversation was very casual and no one, including Rory, was concerned,” said Wilson.

While Nairn experienced further chest flutters, as well as headaches and a sore elbow, he put it down to the stress of an impending marriage and moving house.

His father Brett described him as “generally strong and fit”, a keen hunter and rugby player.

Rory Nairn with his fiancee Ashleigh Wilson. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Rory Nairn with his fiancee Ashleigh Wilson. Photo / Otago Daily Times

In the early hours of November 17, Nairn woke up in discomfort and said he would see a doctor the next day.

But when he rose again a couple of hours later, he agreed to go to hospital.

Minutes later he collapsed in the bathroom and Wilson was unable to open the door to get in.

“I was able to see Rory through the crack in the door. I could see that he was dead,” she said.

Emergency services arrived at the scene and performed CPR in the lounge but it was unsuccessful.

Wilson said she later found a screenshot on her partner’s phone about myocarditis.

Had the advice to seek medical attention been more urgent, it may have saved his life, she said.

“I went quickly from planning a wedding to planning a funeral,” said Ms Wilson.

Wilson said her agony was compounded by a barrage of online abuse due to controversial nature of Nairn’s death and her family had been “blown apart” by the divisive vaccine issue.

“My heart has been broken over and over again as a result of this online harassment,” she said.

In an opening address, the coroner conveyed her condolences to the family and stressed the inquest was a fact-finding exercise.

“I’m truly sorry for your loss … I acknowledge that being here might reignite memories for you about the night in question and take you back to that time,” said Johnson.

She told the packed courtroom that she was not there to determine fault and that evaluating the benefits of vaccination or otherwise was “completely out of my jurisdiction”.

The inquiry is expected to conclude next week.



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