The AstraZeneca “rare blood clot” debate continues

by Lorraine Williamson
rare blood clot
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MADRID – Following cases of a rare blood clot condition after receiving the AstraZeneca jab, many countries throughout the world suspended use. Most have now resumed due to official reports from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Despite repeated assurances as to the safety of the vaccine, and statements from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the EMA confirming the benefits outweigh the risks, there are yet more questions being asked. Countries are continually reviewing data and changing the priority groups deemed most suitable to receive this particular vaccine.

The UK has mainly been using the AstaZeneca jab in its mass roll-out. The government had ordered 100 million doses. And as such is one of the most successful countries in its rate of vaccination. However, so far, the UK has not joined the growing number of countries that are questioning the jab.

Rare blood clot

The latest concern, according to Channel 4 News is the risk particularly for younger women. This is amid concerns as to whether it could increase the risk of a rare blood clot. The programme has now learned the UK´s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is being urged to look again. However, as yet the regulator says no decision has been made.

As reported, the UK’s medicines regulatory body has said that no decision has been made on any regulatory action relating to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. However, following reports it is considering restricting use of the vaccine in younger people.

The data is still unclear

On Monday evening the news programme claimed the MRHA was considering the restrictions amid concerns about rare blood clots. And a decision could be made as early as Tuesday (today).

It reported: “Two senior sources have told this programme that while the data is still unclear, there are growing arguments to justify offering younger people – below the age of 30 at the very least – a different vaccine.”

However, both sources also emphasised their support for the Oxford jab.  They also voiced their concerns that any restriction of its rollout could damage public confidence in the jab.

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No decision has been made

Later on Monday, the MHRA’s chief executive Dr June Raine said no decision had been made. She urged people to continue to get vaccinated.

“Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca,” she said. “No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”

Unusual blood clot with low platelet count

Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday that the clots raised questions over whether young people should get the jab. He said: “There is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine. But unusual blood clots with low platelet counts may also be associated at a lower level with other vaccines.

“It appears that risk is age related, it may possibly be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.

“And so, the older you are, the less the risk is but also the higher the risk is of Covid. Therefore the risk-benefit equation really points very much towards being vaccinated. However, I think it becomes slightly more complicated when you get to younger age groups. This is where the risk-benefit equation is more complicated.”

It comes as the European Medicines Agency is set to rule tomorrow (Wednesday) on whether countries should carry on giving out the jab as part of its vaccine programme.

In the last month, among others, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands paused the vaccine’s rollout while the EMA investigated.

 

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