Ignore vaccine fears and attend for your jab, say top NI doctors

Leading doctors have urged people in Northern Ireland to put aside concerns about the AstraZenaca vaccine and attend appointments for it.

The Brtish Medical Association (BMA) NI GP’s committee rushed out advice this evening that the jab is safe, after the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) in the Republic of Ireland suspended use of it.

Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Fein deputy first minister, said that she had sought clarification from Northern Ireland’s health minister as to “what these developments may mean for the North”.

But Dr Alan Stout, chair of BMA NI GP committee, moved to allay fears.

Dr Alan Stout of the BMA said: "We are confident that the vaccine is extremely safe to use and it is one of the key facets of our fight against Covid-19"

“It is very important that anyone in Northern Ireland who has a vaccine appointment scheduled keeps it and attends as planned,” he said.

“We are confident that the vaccine is extremely safe to use and it is one of the key facets of our fight against Covid-19.”

Dr Stout added: “Your GP is ideally placed to discuss any concerns you have around the vaccine when you come for your appointment. In the meantime, please do not contact your GP, when you are scheduled to get your vaccine you will be contacted by them to make an appointment.”

Meanwhile, the UK regulator also said that evidence does not suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine is the cause of blood clots.

Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Fein deputy first minister, had tweeted earlier yesterday: “Have sought clarification from the Health Minister about the temporary suspension of use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine elsewhere, and what these developments may mean for the North"

The Republic of Ireland had said yesterday that it was suspending of the jab out of an abundance of caution.

It followed reports of serious clotting in adults in Norway which left four people in hospital.

Irish Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it was a “precautionary step”.

Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “Have sought clarification from the Health Minister about the temporary suspension of use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine elsewhere, and what these developments may mean for the North. Be assured we will keep the public informed.”

Vaccination is our bridge to better, safer and more normal times for everyone said Robin Swann

But after a weekend in which no-one died in Northern Ireland from Covid, Stormont Health Minister Minister Robin Swann and the Department of Health said that in light of the Republic’s decision they had sought an update from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The MHRA had responded: “We are aware of the action in Ireland. We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause.”

Mr Swann said that in line with MHRA guidance, the roll-out of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme will continue.

A press statement added: “A further expansion of this programme will be announced very shortly.”

There were no Covid deaths in Northern Ireland over the weekend, with 146 new cases reported on Saturday and 143 yesterday.

That means the death toll with the virus remains at 2,098.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had already said that countries should continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, adding there was no indication of a link between the jabs and blood clots.

More than 110,000 doses have been administered in the Republic, which is about a fifth of all inoculations given to date.

Mr Donnelly said: “The decision to temporarily suspend use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was based on new information from Norway that emerged late last night. This is a precautionary step.”

Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said the recommendation has been made following a report from the Norwegian Medicines Agency of four new reports of serious blood clotting events in adults after vaccination with AstraZeneca.

He added: “It has not been concluded that there is any link between the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases.

“However, acting on the precautionary principle, and pending receipt of further information, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended the temporary deferral of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.”

In a statement to RTE, AstraZeneca said an analysis of safety data covering more than 17 million doses of the vaccine administered has shown no evidence of an increased risk of the conditions concerned, and that no trends or patterns were observed in clinical trials.

It added: “In fact, the reported numbers of these types of events for Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca are not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population.

“A careful review of all available safety data, including these events, is ongoing and AstraZeneca is committed to sharing information without delay.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has initiated an urgent review of all blood clotting events occurring with the vaccine, to determine if there is a possible safety risk.

A statement from Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said: “To date, the HPRA has received a small number of reports associated with blood clots following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“However, it has not received any reports of the nature of those described by the Norwegian Medicines Agency.”

Several other European countries temporarily suspended AstraZeneca jabs.

The EMA reported one person in Austria was diagnosed with blood clots and died 10 days after vaccination, but it stressed there is “currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions”.

Denmark, Norway and Iceland have said they are temporarily halting AstraZeneca vaccinations to probe reports.

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