Cork experts urge those in receipt of AstraZeneca vaccine 'not to panic' following news of deferral

Cork experts urge those in receipt of AstraZeneca vaccine 'not to panic' following news of deferral

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) yesterday recommended that the administration of the vaccine be deferred on a temporary and precautionary basis. 

CORK medical experts have urged people in receipt of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine “not to panic” following the news that the administration of the vaccine is being temporarily deferred.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) yesterday recommended that the administration of the vaccine be deferred on a temporary and precautionary basis, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation underway at EU level into a small number of reports of thromboembolic or blood-clotting events.

Following a new safety alert from the Norwegian Medicines Agency, received on March 13, NIAC met with the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and HSE representatives to consider the new information.

It concerns four new reports of serious rare clotting events in four adults aged under 65 who had received the vaccine.

To date, no reports of similar events have been received by the HPRA. However, it has received a small number of reports associated with blood clots following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Dr Nuala O Connor, Covid-19 lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners
Dr Nuala O Connor, Covid-19 lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners

Dr Nuala O’Connor of Elmwood Medical Practice in Frankfield, who is also the Covid-19 lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners, said the ICGP and IMO support the decision by NIAC to temporarily defer administration of the vaccine and that it is important for confidence in any vaccination programme that safety signals are taken seriously and that time is given to experts to review evidence that has emerged.

She said, however, that it was important for those with concerns to remember that despite 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine having been given in Ireland to date, there have been no reports of similar events.

Speaking to The Echo, Dr O’Connor said: “The European Medicines Agency as of March 10, 2021, has reported 30 cases of thromboembolic events among close to 5m people who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca in the European economic area. So these events are very rare and we do not know if they are caused by the vaccine. This vaccine is a very important tool in a fight against Covid-19 disease.”

Dr O’Connor said that the temporary deferral will not impact the ongoing vaccination of the over 70s through general practice, which is using the mRNA Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Dr Elizabeth Brint of UCC's Department of Pathology.
Dr Elizabeth Brint of UCC's Department of Pathology.

Dr Elizabeth Brint, an immunologist at University College Cork (UCC), echoed Dr O’Connor’s comments and said: “Nobody should panic and nobody should be remotely anxious.”

Dr Brint, of the Department of Pathology, said that a hyper-cautious approach has been taken, to continue to ensure vaccine safety and maintain vaccine confidence and that there is “currently no indication that the vaccination was the cause of the events that have been reported”.

“We’re talking about huge numbers now that we’re rolling out to and pulmonary embolism is a common occurrence so how likely is it that a common occurrence is going to occur in a population that you’re vaccinating?” she said.

“It’s not unlikely when you’ve got all these numbers being vaccinated.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca said: “An analysis of our safety data that covers reported cases from more than 17m doses of vaccine administered has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, or thrombocytopenia with Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.

“In fact, the reported numbers of these types of events for Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca are lower than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population.

“In clinical trials, no trends or patterns were observed with regard to pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, or events possibly related to thrombocytopenia.

“A careful review of all available safety data, including these events, is ongoing and AstraZeneca is committed to sharing information without delay. We also note that the European Medicine Agency [EMA] has asked for an assessment of events related to thrombocytopenia from other Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers.”

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