Health

Blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine are extremely rare – don’t let it scare you


None of these patients had a clot (Picture: Getty Images/Johner RF)

‘I had the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week and I’ve just had this dull ache on my forehead ever since – could it be a blood clot, doctor?’

This question has been asked repeatedly this weekend in emergency departments and GP surgeries up and down the country, as frontline services see an influx of worried patients with headaches after having the AZ vaccine. 

Dr Kaveri Jalundhwala works in an emergency department in the south of England and said: ‘In 24 hours, we had 22 people presenting with headaches after having the AZ vaccine and there was a scramble last week to figure out an appropriate pathway. The impact on services cannot be downplayed in both primary and secondary care, with few of these patients ever having an abnormal finding.’

The fears, however, are very real.

As soon as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) released a statement last week that people under 30 should receive alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine in light of reports of very rare blood clots – often in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis CVST) or abdomen (splanchnic vein thrombosis) – GPs have been inundated with phone calls from worried patients.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reported the ‘extremely rare adverse event of both blood clots and low platelet counts’ in 79 people19 of which were fatal.

Health officials in Europe reached similar conclusions, with both agreeing that the vaccine’s benefits still outweigh the potential risk of clots, but for those under 30, an alternate jab may be preferable.

So are these fears justified?

Sorry, this video isn’t available any more.

Over 20.2million people in the UK have received the AstraZeneca vaccination since the rollout started, which is estimated to have prevented at least 6,000 deaths in the first three months of 2021 and an 80% reduction in hospitalisation from Covid-19.

With millions now vaccinated, rare side effects are going to emerge and the difficulty lies in determining if these problems are actually due to the vaccine, or if they would have occurred anyway, regardless of vaccine administration.

As doctors, we deal with the balance of risks on a daily basis – accepting that there is a degree of uncertainty associated with most aspects of medicine.

Even the most basic of treatments, like over-the-counter paracetamol, can cause adverse effects in some people. This is so vanishingly rare, we barely give it a second thought.

Based on the current data available, it is entirely possible that the risk of the vaccine causing clots is zero and the cases are coincidental. The MHRA estimates there is around a one in 250,000 risk (four per million) of developing blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK.

The background risk is uncertain but is estimated to be between two to 16 cases per million people each year.

To put this into context, women have been dealing with the risk of developing a blood clot from taking oral contraceptive pills for years – the risk is much higher, at one in 2,000 each year, according to an article in the Lancet journal last year by NHS GP Margaret McCartney.

With roughly three million women in the UK prescribed the pill each year, around 1,500 of these may go on to develop a blood clot as a result. Millions continue to choose it and take it safely – and indeed, an unplanned pregnancy presents an even greater risk of blood clots than taking the pill.

If women are able to accept the risk of taking a daily contraceptive pill, it is surely not much of a stretch to accept the much smaller risk of the AZ vaccine (Picture: areeya_ann via Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s important to remember that patients with Covid-19 are at a much higher risk of developing blood clots anyway, with more than a fifth of those hospitalised developing clots.

The death tolls from Covid-19 over this past year speak for themselves, and the small risk of clots should not prevent the general healthy population from being vaccinated.

Based on current German data, if a million people are vaccinated, approximately 12 would have a blood clot and four would die. Compare this to a million 60-year-olds catching Covid-19 – around 20,000 would die.

This risk decreases in lower age groups, which is why based on the current balance of risks, those under 30 are advised to have an alternate vaccine to AstraZeneca, while in older adults who are more at risk of dying from the disease – the AZ vaccine should be continued to be given.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive health have advised it is safe to continue the combined contraceptive pill while having the Covid-19 vaccination.

If women are able to accept the risk of taking a daily contraceptive pill, it is surely not much of a stretch to accept the much smaller risk of the AZ vaccine.

Sadly, vaccine hesitancy is already being reported in countries such as Spain, and it is important we don’t follow the same trend in the UK. Achieving herd immunity through vaccination is our route out of this pandemic to avoid further waves and lockdowns.

It is natural to be fearful of something so new, but as a doctor, I urge those hesitating to weigh the balance of risks and base the decision to be vaccinated on the science.

Dr Ellen Welch is Editorial Lead with the Doctors’ Association UK and gratefully received both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccination while pregnant and would happily do so again.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing james.besanvalle@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.


MORE : People urged to keep getting Covid vaccine as blood clots ‘extraordinarily rare’


MORE : More than 40,000,000 vaccine doses have been given in UK


MORE : Dr Amir Khan details signs of a blood clot as he dispels fears over Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine





READ SOURCE

Read More   The disturbing reason your penis is shaped like it is…

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.