AstraZeneca ‘no risk’: Cork immunology expert urges people to take vaccine when offered

AstraZeneca ‘no risk’: Cork immunology expert urges people to take vaccine when offered

A CORK expert in immunology has said that people should not hesitate to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) safety committee, PRAC, ruled it safe and effective. Pic: AP Photo/Christophe Ena

A CORK expert in immunology has said that people should not hesitate to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) safety committee, PRAC, ruled it safe and effective.

The committee’s investigation comes after 30 cases of unusual blood disorders were reported, out of a population of 5m people who had received the vaccine.

Last week, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended that the administration of the vaccine be deferred on a temporary and precautionary basis, pending the outcome of the EMA committee’s investigation.

Dr Elizabeth Brint of University College Cork’s pathology department said that the key phrase to come out of the EMA’s report was that benefits continue to hugely outweigh the risks.

“There is no risk. They were unable to find any association between the vaccine and the blood-clotting incidents,” Dr Brint said.

“This is a great vaccine and, very importantly, it’s making up a fifth of our current vaccinations.”

“For the five days that it has been on hold, 30,000 people didn’t get vaccinated this week so it’s so important that we resume the vaccination programme and that these people now attend when offered the vaccine. There is no worry,” she said.

She said that the NIAC’s approval of the vaccine in those ages over 70 further proves its safety.

The new advice updates the original advice from NIAC on February 2 which recommended that the vaccine could be used for those aged 65 and older, but where possible and timely, an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna should be used.

“This vaccine is not just safe, but also shown to be effective in that over 65 population that it was felt that the data was a bit lacking initially, and now there’s so much data showing really good effectiveness of this safe vaccine in all populations,” she said.

HSE National Director of Community Operations, David Walsh, said during a press conference on Thursday that of the 240,000 frontline healthcare workers eligible for vaccination, nearly 202,000 were in receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine as of March 15, of which 91,000 have received their second dose of the mRNA vaccine.

Most of the balance are people who received AstraZeneca who will now receive their second dose in May.

He said that NIAC will make a recommendation to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) following the outcome of the EMA report, who will then advise the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly before the HSE recommences vaccination clinics.

CEO of the HSE Paul Reid said that those who missed out on receiving the vaccine this week, a combination of healthcare workers and people in cohort four - aged 18 to 69 years of age with very high-risk medical conditions - will be prioritised once vaccination using AstraZeneca recommences.

In a statement on its website, the EMA said that the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots, however, it said the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia.

“These are rare cases – around 20 million people in the UK and EEA had received the vaccine as of March 16 and EMA had reviewed only seven cases of blood clots in multiple blood vessels, or disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), and 18 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). A causal link with the vaccine is not proven, but is possible and deserves further analysis,” the statement read.

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