Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced that a second case of blood clots is believed to be linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
The news came as a health spokesperson confirmed that Australia would not be purchasing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to replace the AstraZeneca doses that would no longer be used on those under the age of 50.
The TGA explained that the Vaccine Safety Investigation Group (VSIG) had concluded that a woman in her 40s, who was vaccinated in Western Australia, was likely to be linked after developing thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (blood clots).
Read more: What is thrombocytopenia?
The woman is still in hospital and receiving treatment, and is believed to be in a stable condition.
The VSIG assessed the case using an internationally accepted method to rate the certainty of a link between the event and the vaccine.
The panel concluded that the case was similar to cases seen in Europe and the United Kingdom of the rare clotting disorder because it included significant venous thrombosis (blood clots in the veins), a low platelet count and blood test results consistent with other cases.
There have been about 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine administered in Australia to date, so while numbers are small, two cases of the thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome equates to a frequency of one in 350,000.
The UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has concluded from its review of cases reported in the UK that the overall risk of these rare blood clots was approximately one in 250,000 who receive the vaccine.
People who have received COVID-19 vaccines should be aware of the common side-effects, which include fever, sore muscles, tiredness and headache. These usually start within 24 hours of vaccination and last for one or two days. These side-effects are expected and are not of concern unless severe or persistent.
The reports of the rare clotting complications have occurred later (between day four and 20 after vaccination) and have generally been severe, requiring hospitalisation.
The TGA explains that those who have received their vaccination shots should seek immediate medical attention if, a few days after vaccination, they develop symptoms such as:
- a severe or persistent headache or blurred vision
- shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain
- unusual skin bruising and/or pinpoint round spots beyond the site of injection.
A spokesman for health minister Greg Hunt, meanwhile, announced that the government would not purchase the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to fill the shortfall caused by abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine for those under the age of 50.
The spokesman told The Guardian that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “is an adenovirus vaccine, the same type of vaccine as the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The government does not intend to purchase any further adenovirus vaccines at this time.”
Opposition health minister Mark Butler told ABC News Breakfast on Tuesday morning that Australians deserved more information on why the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was being disregarded.
“It’s simply not good enough for Australians to receive this information from the minister’s spokesperson without any background explanation,” Mr Butler said.
“We have been making the point now for some time Australia needs more vaccine options on the table.
“Most other countries have been looking at five or six vaccines. The UK, for example, has seven deals. And so, with this very important vaccine that’s rolling out through the US, [and] will start to roll out through the United Kingdom very soon, if there is a decision not to go with it, what are the reasons for that?
“This is a critical juncture the nation faces at the moment. We’ve got a vaccine rollout that’s run off the rails and the prime minister needs to come clean with Australians about what the new plan is, what the new timelines and targets are.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese also attacked Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision to abandon the vaccine rollout timeline over Facebook.
“He doesn’t even give press conferences these days,” Mr Albanese told a press conference in Perth. “We’ve now had a major health announcement done through Facebook.
“Quite extraordinary that the government and Scott Morrison is removing himself from any scrutiny [and] after he said, ‘Do not take your advice from Facebook when it comes to the pandemic’ he is now giving advice on Facebook. The two things can’t be right.
“Scott Morrison had one job, which was to get the rollout of the vaccine right. And it is a shambles. A shambles where now he is saying that they won’t even have a timeline or a target for when people will be vaccinated.”
Former opposition leader Bill Shorten told the Today show on Tuesday morning that Australians were being ‘held hostage’ by the vaccine rollout.
“The reality is that Australians are being held hostage to a botched vaccine rollout,” Mr Shorten said.
“People were hoping that the vaccines were a path or a ticket back to normal. But now we find out that travel might not be a thing until 2024.”
Are you disappointed the government won’t be purchasing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? What do you think of the government’s vaccine rollout so far?
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