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AstraZeneca blood clot risk still 100,000 to one, but fatality rate has fallen, says EU watchdog


Photo: Dado Ruvic

Photo: Dado Ruvic

Peter McKenna

Peter McKenna


Photo: Dado Ruvic

The risk of a rare blood clot after receiving a dose of AstraZeneca vaccine remains one in 100,000, but the fatality rate has fallen since last month, the European drugs watchdog said yesterday.

Officials said 17 million people received a dose by mid-April, and that figure has now risen to 19 million.

As of yesterday, the watchdog had recorded 316 cases of blood clots with low platelets – including fewer than five in Ireland – among people who received the jab in EU countries.

While there is no change in the frequency of the unusual blood clots, the fatality rate has fallen as patients and doctors have become more alert to potential symptoms, taskforce chair Marco Cavaleri told the European Medicines Agency (EMA) press conference.

Fewer than five cases have been reported here and no deaths.

So far, 2.1 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in Europe and only one possible case of rare blood clot has been reported, the EMA  said.

It comes as the agency approved the first vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.

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The vaccine, made by Pfizer/BioNtech, can safely be used on adolescents following a study of more than 2,000 young people in the United States .

It will continue to be monitored by the watchdog for two years.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) in this country, which makes recommendations to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Covid-19 vaccines, has said it is looking at making the vaccine available to children who have high-risk medical conditions.

It could also be offered to children living in households where there is a person who is immunocompromised.

It is examining the ethical issues surrounding recommending a vaccine for healthy adolescents.

Niac is also looking at the possibility of offering a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a second dose to people under 50 who have received one jab of AstraZeneca.

This is because the very small risk of blood clots after getting a second dose of AstraZeneca was higher than originally thought.

This could affect healthcare workers and people at very high risk of Covid-19 due to underlying illness in this country.

Asked about mixing vaccines, the EMA officials said yesterday that two studies were under way, one in the UK and the other in Spain.

So far, it appears there are no major risks in mixing vaccines, but they would like to collect more evidence.

The latest developments come as 467 new cases of
the virus were reported yesterday.

There are 99 patients in hospital with Covid-19, including 38 in intensive care.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin revealed yesterday, as the country takes major steps in reopening the country, that an ad hoc group has been set up to monitor the so-called Indian variant of the virus here.

So far, there have been 97 cases of the variant, which is more contagious.

People with only one dose of Covid-19 vaccine have reduced protection.

Pregnant women who are between 14 and 36 weeks’ gestation are currently being offered the vaccine and take-up is varying between 20pc and 60pc.

Dr Peter McKenna, head of the HSE’s national women’s and infants’ programme, said the evidence so far was that the vaccines were safe for pregnant women.

He urged women to take up the offer and reduce the chance of becoming unwell if they catch the virus.

Meanwhile, the impact of the HSE cyberattack has had a devastating effect on services for patients for a second week.

Thousands are now facing into a third week of out-patient cancellations as well as high-risk disruption to appointments for scans, diagnosis and treatment of illness.

Radiotherapy services in Cork remain stalled.

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