Suspending AstraZeneca vaccines 'will do more HARM than good', leading expert warns

PAUSING the use of AstraZeneca Covid vaccines could do “more harm than good”, a leading expert has warned.

A growing list of countries, including Ireland, France and Germany, are holding off using the jab over blood clot fears, cancelling thousands of appointments.

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The “precautionary” move comes after reports of fatal blood clots in people who had recently received the vaccine.

However, UK and EU regulators, the World Health Organisation, and AstraZeneca, have said there is no proof the blood clots were caused by the vaccine.

Experts say it is likely a coincidence.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from the University of Cambridge, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “I think these pauses, I don’t think you can consider these as being cautious.

“They actually could be doing more harm than good.

“If it means there is a delay in rolling out the vaccine to people who would otherwise have a vaccine, then that will cause harm.”

It comes as:

  • AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is NOT linked to blood clots, say British scientists
  • Surge Covid tests deployed in NEW areas of London to halt spread of South African variant
  • AstraZeneca vaccine suspended in Germany over blood clot fears – despite UK vow jab is safe
  • Covid vaccine appears to ease symptoms of long Covid, sufferers claim
  • Britain must protect against Covid-type virus being used as a ‘biological weapon’, expert warns

The Prime Minister said he is “confident” in the vaccines’ safety.

Germany pauses use of the vaccine on advice from its medicine regulator.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week said it would be investigating a spate of blood clotting cases in Europe.

But it urged countries to continue vaccinating during this time because the benefits of being protected against Covid outweigh any potential risk from the vaccine.

It said there had been just 30 reports of blood clots among close to five million people given the vaccine across Europe.

AstraZeneca said this was “lower than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population”.

The company also said that using data from 17 million people given the jab, there was no evidence of increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism.

Prof Spiegelhalter backed up AstraZeneca’s claim and said the most surprising point was just how few blood clotting events there had been.

He told World At One: “I’ve looked at the AstraZeneca reports and they’ve said that 17 million jabs across the EU and the UK (had been administered) and they’ve had about 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 cases of pulmonary embolism reported.

 

“Doing some sums, deep vein thrombosis happens to one in 1,000 people per year of all ages.

“So, out of those 17 million jabs, we would expect at least 17,000 of those people to get a deep vein thrombosis some time in the year.

“So that means that there will have been – and you can pretty well guarantee it – 350 people who have had an AstraZeneca jab then had a deep vein thrombosis in the week following that.

“I think what’s surprising is that only 15 have been reported as a possible adverse effect.”

REASSURANCE

The Prime Minister was asked during a visit to Coventry for his views on the situation.

Asked directly if he could tell the public that the vaccine is safe, Boris Johnson said: “Yes, I can. In the MHRA we have one of the toughest and most experienced regulators in the world.

“They see no reason at all to discontinue the vaccination programme… for either of the vaccines that we’re currently using.

“They believe that they are highly effective in driving down not just hospitalisation but also serious disease and mortality.

“We continue to be very confident about the programme and it’s great to see it being rolled out at such speed across the UK.”

 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there was “no evidence” that blood clots are any more likely to occur following vaccination.

They said: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective, and we urge anybody asked to come forward to receive a vaccine to do so.”

Medical experts have said the blood clots are just a "coincidence", with others claiming that it's a "step too far" to stop people getting a jab that would protect them from serious disease.

Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said that coagulation disorders are very common in patients with Covid-19.

He said that unless it was determined that these patients did not have the virus, then it would be "premature" to suggest it was the vaccine that caused the blood clots.

Prof Evans added: "Covid definitely causes coagulation disorders and each of the vaccines prevents Covid disease, including more severe cases.

"Therefore, it is extremely likely that the benefit of the vaccine notably outweighs any risk for coagulation disorders and the vaccine prevents other consequences of Covid including deaths from other causes."

Prof Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol added that a "stop-start" approach to vaccines needed to be "carefully considered".

He said: "In order to use vaccines effectively to help gain control over the pandemic there needs to be vaccine supply, vaccine delivery and vaccine acceptance.

"Getting all three lined up and in place at the same time is not easy and cannot be taken for granted while the need for rapid progress is obvious.

"If clear evidence of serious or life threatening side-effects emerges that will have important consequences."

He stated however, that this is not the case and that stopping vaccine programmes every time someone becomes unwell from a jab is "undesirable".

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