Astra Zeneca vaccine blood clot link: ‘Sensible’ for over-30s to keep taking jab, says top NI doctor

A leading Northern Ireland doctor has encouraged older people to keep coming forward for their Astra Zeneca coronavirus vaccination amid concern about links to rare blood clots.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 5:21 pm
File photo dated 04/02/21 of a vial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Issue date: Saturday April 3, 2021.

Dr Tom Black, a Londonderry-based GP who chairs the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, told the News Letter it remains “very sensible” for older people to come forward for the vaccine.

He was speaking after European regulators ruled that unusual blood clots were “very rare side effects” of the jab and the UK’s vaccine advisory body said those aged 18-30 would be offered an alternative Covid jab.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it received 79 reports of blood clots accompanied by low blood platelet count from the millions of people in the UK who have had the vaccine. Of that total, 19 died.

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Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said it had not been proven the clots were caused by the vaccine but said the review had concluded that is a “a strong possibility”.

The regulator also stressed that the side-effects were extremely rare and that the vaccine’s effectiveness was proven.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), meanwhile, has recommended those aged 18-30 are offered an alternative vaccine.

Dr Black said:”It’s a finely balanced decision for younger people because the risk of covid is much lower.

“In other words, for older people it’s sensible to continue to get the Astra Zeneca vaccine so if you’ve had the first dose get the second dose because the risk-to-benefit ratio is hugely in your interests.”

He added: “If you are young, your chances of dying from Covid are much smaller than if you were an older person. It is very sensible for an older person with a big risk from Covid to go ahead and tolerate a very small possible risk with the Astra Zeneca vaccine.

“It may well be a very rare side effect of the Astra Zeneca vaccine but it’s also a very common side effect of the Covid disease. But in the balance, the JCVI has recommended that people 18-29 be offered an altnerative vaccine where available.

“In other words, if there is an alternative such as Moderna or Pfizer that is fine but if there isn’t, those patients can still get the Astra Zeneca because the risk from that is still very, very rare.”

Dr Black continued: “It hasn’t been proven that there is a cause-and-effect between the vaccine and the clots. There is a link, but not a proven cause-and-effect. We have seen these cases and there is cncern, so research will be done.

“ Every medication has risk associated with it, but we only use medication that has very rare side effects or risks and that’s what the public expect.”