Public health chief’s reassurance over vaccines

Wednesday, 17th March 2021

THERE is “very little evidence” that clotting cases are caused by the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Birmingham’s public health director has said.

Addressing the city council’s cabinet today, Dr Justin Varney said there were “nowhere near” the number of clots among vaccine recipients in the city so far for it to exceed typical figures.

Germany and France are among at least ten countries to suspend or limit use of the coronavirus vaccine following reports of side effects including clotting.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have said there is no evidence for a link between the cases including five deaths, and Dr Varney reinforced this position.

He said:

“What we have seen is a very small number of cases reported of blood clots in adults.

“It varies in reports between 30 and 40 cases and it varies a bit in how many doses of Astra Zeneca have been given – between five and 17 million.

“We know that in normal times if you ignore the vaccine, people have clots. They happen.

“The risk of having a blood clot is higher if you are elderly, if you are very overweight, people who have specific health conditions such as cancer – many of whom are in the priority groups for vaccination.

“The only thing that causes clots that has been reduced during restrictions has been international travel. All the other reasons people have clots are still there.”

Outlining two main types of clots, he said venous thromboembolism often occurs in the legs and affects two in one thousand people each year in the general population.

The amount it occurs increases as people get older – meaning it will affect around one in a hundred over-80-year-olds each year.

This translates to a “conservative estimate” of 806 blood clots expected among the 219,887 people among the age groups who have received a vaccine so far in Birmingham – not including clinically extremely vulnerable and other cohorts.

The other type is pulmonary embolisms in the lungs which are less common and affect seven to eight adults per 10,000 each year.

Dr Varney said:

“If we do the same kind of maths we estimate we would see 174 of those in the population who have been vaccinated in a normal year.

“From the feedback we have had from the NHS locally, we are nowhere near those numbers.

“All of the side effects from the vaccine are reported through the Yellow Card system for any serious or sustained side effects.

“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have looked at this and continue to look at this and say they can’t see any association.

“It is important to remember Covid in its own right does significantly increase your chances of having a blood clot.

“And in patients with Covid who are in intensive care, about a third developed a blood clot even though they were on anticoagulant medication.

“There is very little evidence at the moment other than association in time that these clotting cases are caused by the vaccine.

“There is no logical reason scientifically why a vaccine would cause a clot because in the chemicals and the way the vaccines are created, there isn’t a logical connection.”