Is the fear of blood clots in Europe really justified by Covishield? | India News
In recent days, 11 European countries, including Germany, France, Ireland, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, have suspended its use for fear that it will cause blood clots. There is no proof yet, but as you pause country after country, you may wonder if Covishield is safe for you. Should you keep your vaccination date?
The short answer is yes. The problem, if it can be related to the Oxford vaccine, has affected just 37 of the 1.7 crore of Europeans vaccinated with it, says BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle.
That would be roughly 2,800 cases out of 130 crore of Indians. Considering that the coronavirus has killed around 1.6 lakh Indians in the last year, the unproven side effects of the vaccine should be the least of our concerns.
‘No increase in cases’
The Guardian’s health editor, Sarah Boseley, notes that the problems suspected of causing this vaccine are just as common among people who have not taken it. “The number of cases of blood clots and thrombocytopenia in people who have been vaccinated is not higher than in the population that has not received the injection.”
Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which the body does not make enough platelets, thus increasing the risk of excessive bleeding.
In an opinion piece for The Guardian, British statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter says: “No wonder there have been 30 reports.” After all, “deep vein thrombosis,” the formation of blood clots within the veins, is a relatively common problem that affects 1 in 1,000 people each year. “They are probably more vaccinated in the older population.”
Even without the Oxford vaccine, 17,000 of the 1.7 crore of vaccinated Europeans would likely have suffered clots in one year. That’s 47 every day. Why all the fuss over 37 cases, spread over several weeks?
European governments are acting “very cautious,” says Boseley. Triggle agrees that the decision “was made on the basis of the precautionary principle.” But when a pandemic is killing thousands of people every day, “it is an approach that can sometimes do more harm than good.”
‘Vaccines don’t cause clots’
A Johns Hopkins University scientist told The New York Times: “Vaccines have not been shown to cause blood clots.” Another expert says that factors that increase the risk of clots are more common in high-risk populations who get vaccinated first. So the vaccine may not be to blame for the clots.
However, some vaccines, including the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine given to children, can temporarily lower platelets. And lower platelet levels have been reported in a small number of patients who received the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Astra-Zeneca vaccines.
For now, however, even the International Society for Thrombosis and Haemostasis says that some cases among thousands of vaccinated people do not suggest a direct link, and “people with a history of blood clots or taking anticoagulant drugs should go get vaccinated.” Boseley writes in The Guardian.
More vaccines are coming
While doubts about side effects have clouded the launch of the vaccine in Europe, Science Magazine has good news for poorer countries. Last year, the US, UK, Canada and other wealthy countries reserved many times more vaccines than they needed. As vaccines are completed over the next several months, they will be left with an excess of unused vaccines.
Australia, Mexico, Japan, Canada, the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Spain and France will have enough replacement vaccines to fully vaccinate an additional 2.9 billion people. These vaccines would be “enough to immunize everyone in the many poorer nations that lack a safe Covid-19 vaccine.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports, 8 new Covid vaccines could be released before the end of the year. Some of them are based on safer technologies and can be administered without a syringe. Therefore, they might be more suitable for pregnant women and other groups, quotes WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan.