Vaccine row: Angela Merkel looks 'knackered' says expert
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The latest official figures show that nearly 31 million people in the UK – more than half of the UK adult population – have already received their first dose of a Covid vaccine. Second doses of vaccines have also outnumbered first doses for the first time, with the latest Government figures showing 270,526 second doses were registered on Tuesday, compared with 224,590 first doses. But in contrast, the vaccination programme in the EU has stumbled from one disaster to the next, with Brussels embroiled in a bitter war of words with AstraZeneca over product and supply issues.
Earlier this month, more than half of the 27 EU member states temporarily suspended administering the AstraZeneca shot, citing reports of a small number of blood clots caused by the jab.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) insisted the vaccine was safe to use, leading nations to resume its use, but Germany has now suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged under 60 due to fears of a link with rare blood clots.
Dr Paul Ettlinger, GP at The London General Practice, said the contraceptive pills taken by millions of women pose a far greater risk of blood clots than the vaccine and there is no evidence the jab increases the risk, adding: “Therefore, it looks like a political gesture.”
He added one in 1,600 people taking combination hormonal birth control will suffer from blood clots compared to the reported one in 459,000 of those taking the Oxford vaccine, and “there is no obvious link between clotting and the vaccine”.
Dr Ettlinger warned: “It’s scaremongering and a concern and I’m worried about it being used by antivaxxers as an excuse to encourage others not to take the jab.
“This will result in increased incidents of Covid. It would strike me as a political angle with Brexit and the failure of the EU community to vaccinate their populations.”
He added: “Governments have to weigh up this risk to health when it comes to the vaccine but even if the Oxford jab did increase clots, which is currently unproven, coronavirus itself has been known to cause the medical condition.
“You’ve got the risk of clots with Covid and we’re finding out the problems with long Covid. The risk of getting a clot from Covid, I know that’ll be higher than the risk of a clot from the vaccines.”
On Wednesday, the EMA again insisted there is “no evidence” to support restricting the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in any population.
The regulator admitted a causal link between unusual blood clots in people who have had the vaccine is “not proven, but is possible”, but said the benefits of receiving the jab in preventing Covid outweigh the risks of side effects.
The EMA added it was meeting in the context of its ongoing review of “very rare cases of unusual blood clots associated with low numbers of platelets” in people who have received the AstraZeneca jab.
The review has so far not identified any specific risk factors, such as age, gender or a previous medical history of clotting disorders, for these “very rare” events.
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EMA executive director Emer Cooke said: “According to the current scientific knowledge, there is no evidence that would support restricting the use of this vaccine in any population.”
Ms Cooke was asked if it is likely there is a connection between the rare cases of blood clots and the vaccine, to which she replied: “At the moment at this stage of our investigations the link is possible and we cannot say any more than that at this point.”
The latest developments come with the German medicines regulator reporting 31 cases of a type of rare brain blood clot among the nearly 2.7 million people who received the AstraZeneca jab.
The Paul Ehrlich Institute said nine of those affected 31 people have died, and all but two of the cases involved women who were aged 20 to 63.
But the UK’s Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick once again insisted when speaking to Sky News: “We’re 100 percent confident in the efficacy of the vaccine.
“That’s borne out by study after study, by our own independent world-class regulators and by recent research, for example, by Public Health England that’s shown that thousands of people’s lives have been saved since the start of this year alone thanks to our vaccine programme.
“People should continue to go forward, get the vaccine, I certainly will when my time comes, it is a safe vaccine and the UK’s vaccine rollout is saving people’s lives right across the country every day.”
Additional reporting by Matt Atherton.
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