An assortment of countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine out of fear that it might cause blood clots. That includes Norway, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Latvia, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Austria stopped using one particular batch.
Sorry, I may have lost Bulgaria in there somewhere, and quite possibly a few other countries. I may also have added some, but every last one of the countries I listed exists. I’m almost certain of that. And unless you’re in one of them, you don’t need to worry about whether I have the full list. On the other hand, if you are in one, you’ll have already heard about it from a more reliable source.
C’mon, I’m not a newspaper. I do my best.
Whatever the full list is, the European medicines regulator says it sees no evidence that the vaccine caused the blood clots. Suspending its use is worrying, it says, because the risk of getting Covid is greater than any risk posed by the vaccine.
It’s worth noting that a fair number of countries haven’t suspended its use and don’t think there’s a danger. And all of them also exist and are completely real.
The European Medical Authority’s executive director Emer Cooke said about the blood clots, “At present there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, they have not come up in the clinical trials and they are not listed as known or expected side events with this vaccine.”
The EMA is looking into the issue more closely and is due to report on Thursday, but it considers a link very unlikely. The World Health Organization also sees no link.
So what’s the story on blood clots? A woman in Denmark died after getting vaccinated. She had a low number of platelets, blood clots in small and large vessels, and bleeding. Another death was reported in Norway, along with a handful of non-fatal cases with similar “unusual” reactions, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said.
The question in all of this is whether the blood clots are caused by the vaccine or whether they’re unrelated events that happened to happen to people who’d been vaccinated recently, sort of like people deciding to buy jelly beans after they got vaccinated. If you start counting the people who do that, you might find a surprising number, but that wouldn’t be proof that the vaccine caused them to buy jelly beans. The best way to show a link is to compare the number who bought jelly beans to the number of unvaccinated people who did.
You’ll want to run that experiment in the US, though, where it’s easier to find jelly beans.
Britain hasn’t seen a spike in blood clots despite having pumped more than 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine into people’s arms.
AstraZeneca–and here I mean the company, not the vaccine–counted 15 incidents of post-vaccination deep-vein thrombosis (a blood clot in a vein) and 22 of pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that’s entered the lungs) in Britain. That is, they said, “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed Covid-19 vaccines.”
You’re welcome to untangle that sentence if you want. I’m going to quote and run.
No I’m not. It’s the lower and similar that throws me. I think I know what they’re saying but they’d have done better to make two sentences out of that so their points of comparison were clear.
I know. Everyone’s a critic.
The cheesier end of the British press–which is cheesy indeed–is treating this as an opportunity to wave the flag. We knew those Europeans had it in for us. See what they’re like? So far, though, none of them have proposed sending gunboats to support our flagship vaccine. If they do, I’ll let you know.
One the other hand, a new double-blind study of 750 people exposed to the South African Covid variant found that the AZ vaccine is only 10.4% effective against mild to moderate cases. On the bright side, though, nobody was hospitalized and a second-generation AZ vaccine is in development that will close that gap in its protective fencing.
Two cases of a Covid strain first identified in the Philippines have been found in Britain. It too may be more resistant to vaccines.
And finally, an irrelevant feelgood story
After getting his second vaccination in Massachusetts, cellist Yo-Yo Ma sat down and gave a fifteen-minute concert for health workers and the people waiting in line behind him.
Ma is internationally known and famous enough that even I know who he is. When he went for his first shot, he scoped out the surroundings, then brought his cello with him for the second shot.
He wanted to give something back, he said.