The World Health Organization, Health Canada and other agencies around the world have stated that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh the risks. Some countries, including Canada, have taken the precautionary measure of recommending that the vaccine only be offered to those 55 years of age and older. This change was in response to reported rare European cases of blood clots in four in 1 million vaccine doses administered.
This risk, when put in perspective of blood clots occurring within the general population, is extremely low. Other daily risks for blood clots include taking birth control pills, smoking, obesity and post-partum conditions, which all rank significantly higher than the risk of vaccine induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) or blood clots related to the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
On April 7, 2021 the European Medicines Agency (EMA) safety committee (PRAC) stated that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria (formerly COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca).” On the same day, the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reported “By 31 March, 20.2 million doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca had been given in the UK meaning the overall risk of these blood clots is approximately four people in a million who receive the vaccine.”
Dr. Julie Stakiw, Hematologist-Oncologist, Medical Director, Saskatoon Cancer Agency and COVID-19 Vaccination Vulnerable Populations-physician lead, reflected on the issue of blood clots, “The fact is that you have a greater chance of getting a blood clot from flying on an airplane that you do from AstraZeneca – by a sizeable margin. If we don’t take every chance we have to be immunized and end this pandemic, none of us will have an opportunity to get on a plane and take that risk anytime soon. ”
The importance of developing this awareness among the medical community and the population at large is that rare blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine can be treated when symptoms present themselves. It’s also important to note that the risk of blood clots due to COVID-19 is significantly higher at approximately 20 percent for hospitalised patients and 1 to 2 percent even in uncomplicated COVID infections.
Delaying the opportunity to receive the vaccine offered in order to wait for your vaccine of choice is potentially a risky decision. If you are 55 and older don’t hesitate, vaccinate today. Your life may depend upon it.
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