An urgent investigation has begun into the potential side effects of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine after a man who received the jab was hositalised in Melbourne with a rare blood clotting condition.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration held talks with British regulators overnight probing whether the 44-year-old’s low blood platelets and 22 other similar cases in the UK are linked to the vaccine.
Discussions will continue on Saturday between the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
The medical bodies will review the concerning case and weigh the advice handed down in Friday night’s virtual meeting.
Pictured: A nurse administers the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Austin Hospital on March 17, 2021, in Melbourne
Australia’s medicines watchdog has begun an urgent investigation into the potential side effects of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine after a man was hositalised with a rare blood clotting condition after receiving the jab
The patient at the centre of the investigation got the jab on March 22 and later presented to Box Hill Hospital in Melbourne suffering fever and abdominal pain.
He was found to have blood clots in his abdomen and a very low platelet count, prompting concerns from doctors.
Although there is no hard proof the AstraZeneca product can cause thrombosis syndromes in rare cases, the Australian Government has warned doctors and recipients to be on high alert.
‘People should be particularly alert to severe persistent headaches occurring four to 20 days after vaccination and which are different to the usual pattern of headaches and do not settle with over-the-counter painkillers,’ Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said on Friday.
‘If you received the AstraZeneca vaccine and experience symptoms of persistent headaches or other worrying symptoms four to 20 days after the vaccine, you should seek medical advice.’
Australia’s leading doctor has revealed the warning signs people need to look out for after getting the AstraZeneca covid vaccine
Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd addressed concerns surrounding the vaccine on Friday
Professor Kidd said though the vaccine could cause blood clotting in people with low platelet counts he stressed that the chances of it happening were ‘very small’.
‘The serious risk disease and death from Covid-19, if we experience another severe outbreak… is far greater than the very small potential risk of a very rare clotting disorder associated with the vaccine,’ he said.
‘Cerebral venous thrombosis is a very rare disorder that has previously not been known to be associated with vaccination, however it has been noted as a complication of people who have contracted Covid-19,’ Prof Kidd said.
‘No cases of central venous sinus thrombosis have been reported in Australia to date, in the time period of concern following vaccination, which is within four to 20 days.’
Professor Kid said health authorities were taking the matter ‘very seriously’ and analysing any links between the vaccine and blood clotting.
‘This condition has presented as either a clot appearing in the brain or as thrombosis in other sites, including in the intra-abdominal venous systems,’ he said.
‘If cerebral venous sinus thrombosis or another severe thrombotic case is suspected in a patient who has received a Covid-19 vaccine, please refer them to an emergency department for further urgent assessment and haematology consultation.’
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Pictured: A worker at CSL rolls the first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 24, 2021 in Melbourne
The Victorian Health Department warned medical professionals to be on the lookout for signs of cerebral thrombosis in patients after they had the jab.
‘As a precaution, all clinicians are being advised to refer patients who report headaches 72 hours or more after receiving an AZ Covid-19 vaccine to their nearest emergency department with a referral letter,’ the department said.
‘Hospitals will further assess the patients and may perform tests to rule out thrombosis as a precaution.’
The man’s symptoms are similar to those of prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia in some patients who also had the vaccine.
Some countries restricted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 while others have resumed inoculations, as investigations into reports of rare, and sometimes severe, blood clots continue.
Most Australians will receive the AstraZeneca jab rather than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Earlier in the week, Germany said only people aged 60 and over should be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine due to the rare but severe occurrence of thromboembolic side effects.
The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have said the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks, but are monitoring the developing situation as more cases are reported.
AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company, said earlier in March its vaccine was 76 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic coronavirus infections in a US trial, and that studies did not indicate higher risks of clotting.
The news of the Melbourne man’s symptoms comes amid critcisim over the delays of Australia’s vaccine rollout.
A generic image of AstraZeneca covid19 vaccinations inside of the Royal Exhibition Centre in Melbourne
Four million Australians were due to have their jabs by the end of March, a target missed by more than 3.3 million.
Federal opposition health spokesman Mark Butler took aim, saying the government had promised Australia would be at the front of the queue for the vaccine, but instead it had found itself in 108th place.
‘We are so far behind the rest of the world,’ he said.
‘The UK has vaccinated 60 per cent of its adult population. We’ve managed about two per cent.’
Barely a quarter of the 2.4 million vaccine doses available in the country had been administered and only a third of aged care facilities had received their first doses, he said.
‘Every promise they’ve made hasn’t been met.’
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday defended the Commonwealth’s vaccine rollout, saying all states and territories will receive doses in accordance with their 12-week plans.
Mr Hunt blamed a global supply issue, with the European Union blocking some vaccine shipments to Australia due to the country’s low infection rate and rising cases across Europe.
COUNTRIES RESPONSE TO ASTRAZENECA JAB AND BOOD CLOTS
The Therapeutic Goods Administration said on Wednesday a link between the vaccine and clot disorders had not been proven but that it was still investigating the issue as vaccinations continue.
Resumed inoculations from March 19.
Cyprus, which suspended the vaccine on March 15, resumed inoculations on March 19.
To pause offering vaccine to people aged under 55 and require a new analysis of the shot’s benefits and risks based on age and gender.
Medical regulator approved the resumed use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on March 19, but said it should only be given to people aged 55 and older.
Resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine from March 29, but will only give it to people aged 65 and over.
Has limited the use of the vaccine after a nurse died of anaphylactic shock, and vaccinations will continue only in full-fledged medical centers, news agency TASS reported on March 19.
From March 31, Germany will limit use of the shot to people over 60 years and high-priority groups, following further reports of a rare brain blood disorder.
Resumed use on March 25 after suspending it on March 11 pending investigations into reports that it might be linked to blood clots.
Resumed using the vaccine on March 22 but warned against the use of the vaccine in people with a low blood platelet count.
Plans to resume rollout of the vaccine for all those aged 18 and over in ‘the coming days,’ a committee said on March 19, after suspending it on March 14.
Resumed using the vaccine on March 19, and Italians who decline to be inoculated with it will be given an alternative later on.
Also said it would restart administering the shots from March 19.
Restarted administering the vaccine on March 19, currently for over 65-year-olds only.
The health minister said on March 18 that the country would resume using the vaccine that week.
Health Minister Venko Filipce said on March 31 that AstraZeneca shots would be limited to people aged over 60 as a precautionary measure.
President Moon Jae-in received the vaccine on March 23 ahead of an overseas trip, as the country inoculates senior citizens and health workers.
Spain said on March 30 it would use the vaccine for people aged 55-65, and a day later said it would extend the vaccination to essential workers over 65 years old.
Resumed use of the vaccine on March 25 for people aged 65 and older, its health agency said, but restrictions are in place for Swedes under 65 years.
Began use on March 15, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha becoming the first to be inoculated, after Thailand delayed rollout the week before.
VACCINE USE SUSPENDED
Suspended use of one batch of the vaccine on March 7 after the death of one person and the illness of another.
Suspended administration of the vaccine it was scheduled to receive on March 20 as part of the global vaccines sharing scheme COVAX, the health ministry said.
Will prolong its suspension of the shot by three weeks pending further investigations after its two-week pause ended on March 25. A local survey indicated that one in three Danes would decline to get the shot.
Norway will delay a decision over the use of the vaccine, authorities said on March 26, with a decision expected by April 15.
Temporarily stopped vaccinating people with one batch of the vaccine on March 11.