Doctors involved in the UK’s rollout say Brits due their second dose have called with concerns about the vaccine, despite the EU’s own drug regulator, as well as the UK’s and the
One GP claimed up to 10 per cent of people scheduled for appointments were either not showing up, asking to cancel or double-checking which vaccine they were getting.
The former chief of Britain’s vaccine regulator the MHRA, Sir Kent Woods, said European officials had ‘dented public confidence’ with their ‘disorderly’ reaction to the issue, and he described attempts to link the jab to clots as ‘a big jump’.
Doctors and officials warn that it is far more dangerous for people to not get vaccinated and even the EMA has urged people to keep taking the vaccine because blood clots aren’t actually any more common than usual.
Officials and scientists fear the knee-jerk reactions from Europe, which is now staring down the barrel of a third wave of Covid because of its own haphazard vaccination programme, risk derailing Britain’s attempts to vaccinate its way out of lockdown if people start to back out of getting their jabs.
But Britons on the street yesterday said the row hadn’t put them off, calling it ‘scare-mongering’ and saying ‘the chances of getting hit by a bus are probably higher’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today urged people to keep getting the vaccine and said Britain must ‘keep calm and carry on jabbing’ if it wants to get life back to normal – he is expected to reassure the public at a Downing Street press conference scheduled for 5pm tonight.
Health workers are afraid that Europe’s row over the safety of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will have knock-on effects on people in Britain, and there are already reports of members of the public turning down the Oxford jab. Scientists and regulators in the UK, EU and World Health Organization insist it is safe to continue using (Pictured: A man receives a vaccine at a church in west London)
More than a dozen countries in Europe have stopped using AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid unproven concerns it is linked to blood clots
Dr Raj, who is an NHS surgeon and Imperial College London lecturer, said the hysteria in the EU was having a knock-on effect in the UK, particularly among younger people.
He is part of of a team of volunteers trying to educate people about vaccine lies and myths online and said he felt compelled to create a video after being contacted by hundreds of people worried about getting the jab.
His TikTok video has already been viewed more than a million times.
Dr Raj said: ‘I have been inundated in comments on my videos about people scared about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots and worried about receiving first and second doses.
Dr Karan Raj, a surgeon and lecturer at Imperial College London (left), said he has been ‘inundated’ with comments on TikTok from people who are worried about the vaccine
‘They’ve seen the news from Europe about different countries suspending their vaccination and that has made them worried with some saying they won’t get a jab or will wait for a Pfizer one.
‘It’s one thing to have some sort of conspiracy that goes online and that becomes a vaccine myth which is worrying, but this is at a governmental, official level. Naturally people listen to this and are led more easily by these concerns because it’s at official level.
‘But the UK has delivered more of these jabs than the rest of Europe put together and hasn’t seen the concerns that have been highlighted in Europe so I thought it was the opportune moment to put out a video to emphasise that.’
GPs say they have been contacted by patients who are either worried about the vaccine, have questions about it, or don’t want to have it any more.
Dr Mohammed Abbas Khaki, a doctor in London, told
‘They’ve already had one dose and they felt maybe that will be okay,’ he said patients had told him in discussions. ‘Or maybe they should switch to Pfizer-BioNTech and restart the whole process with Pfizer.’
Switching to the Pfizer vaccine is not expected to be allowed by the NHS because regulators have not yet tested whether the jabs can be mixed up in short succession.
And there aren’t enough Pfizer doses to go around even if everybody wanted one, so the NHS doesn’t let people choose which vaccine they have – speed is the number one priority and both are proven to be safe and effective.
Dr Sarah Jarvis told Times Radio that one in 10 of her patients were either ‘just not showing up’, phoning with concerns or asking before they left home whether they were going to be given the AstraZeneca jab.
‘There is NO indication AstraZeneca jab caused blood clots’, EU drug regulator insists
EU regulators yesterday shot down the blood clot fears which have prompted 14 European countries to call a halt to AstraZeneca jabs, saying there is no evidence the vaccine causes dangerous side-effects.
The European Medicines Agency said it was ‘firmly convinced’ that injections with the AstraZeneca shot should continue, joining the WHO and the UK government in a full-throated defence of the vaccine amid fury at EU nations including France and Germany for suspending the jabs.
EMA safety experts say a ‘very small number of people’ have come down with blood disorders but there is ‘no indication’ that these were caused by the jab, which 11million people have already had in the UK.
‘We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death outweigh the risk of these side effects,’ said EMA chief Emer Cooke.
Countries including France will now face pressure to resume AstraZeneca jabs after the EMA delivered its verdict and reiterated that the number of blood clots ‘seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population’.
Italy earlier admitted that its suspension of AstraZeneca jabs was a ‘political’ move while French doctors accused Emmanuel Macron of ‘giving in to panic’ and a German lawmaker said the ban could cause a ‘catastrophe’.
Germany sought to justify its move by saying that one particular kind of blood clot, a ‘sinus vein thrombosis’, had occurred seven times among the 1.6million people vaccinated when only around one case would be expected. By contrast, only four such cases have been identified in the UK out of 11million doses administered.
The suspension follows reports of 37 incidents around Europe of people becoming ill with blood clots shortly after having the jab.
Officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Medicines Agency and UK regulators have advised countries to keep using the vaccine because there is no evidence that these incidents were linked to vaccine.
Experts say all the evidence suggests the cases have been coincidental, with the numbers of blood clots actually lower than in the general population. Germany raised concerns about a very specific clotting condition that can affect the brain, which it claims has happened unusually often, but it has still only had seven cases.
The UK has given 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab so far, with the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine ‘no greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population’.
Dr Mohan Sekeram, a GP in South London, said the international row has led to patients refusing the vaccine with concerns over blood clots.
He said surgery staff had been working hard to ‘alleviate people’s concerns and give them as much information as possible because there’s a lot of misinformation out there.’
He added: ‘We’ve had to explain to them that actually, there’s no evidence around this and that the MHRA also holds the line there’s no substantive evidence that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots in patients who have had the vaccine.’
The Government is desperate to reassure people that the vaccine is safe and that it should continue to be used.
Business Secretary Kwasi Karteng said on BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘The first thing I would like to say is that the jab is safe.
‘We’ve got an extremely effective rollout programme – I think by the end of the week 50 per cent of the British adult population will have been vaccinated – and if people do get the call, I think they should take the jab.
‘And we are looking at the effects of the vaccine rollout day by day. Hospitalisation rates have fallen, the death rate thankfully from the disease has fallen considerably and incidence of people catching Covid has also fallen – the R rate is well below 1.0 and I think it has been a very effective programme.’
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, moved to reassure patients that the vaccine was safe.
He said: ‘Over 24 million people in the UK have now been vaccinated, many of whom have successfully received the Astra Zeneca vaccine with no side effects. Where patients have reported side effects such as flu-like symptoms and muscle aches, these have been minor and transient.
‘The public should be reassured that whilst these new vaccines were developed and approved at speed, no corners were cut and patient safety has been, and remains, paramount.’
DANIEL HANNAN: Europe is playing politics with lives. They banned our Covid jab and fought to keep it. They can’t agree with themselves – and the fallout could be fatal
This was the week that the EU utterly lost its head. To the incredulity of its health chiefs, and the horror of its friends overseas, it has dragged its vaccine policy to the level of the Kindergarten.
On the one hand, we’ve seen member states ban the export of the Oxford/
On the other hand, they’ve been busy casting doubt over the jab’s effectiveness, seizing consignments, and suspending its distribution in 15 countries because of health fears.
We are in the realm of playground politics. ‘Give me your vaccine! Gimme, gimme! … Yeah, well I never wanted your stupid vaccine anyway!’
The vaccination centre at the Erfurt, Germany, exhibition centre is deserted on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. After the stopping of AstraZeneca vaccinations thousands of appointments are cancelled in Thuringia.
It’s not even as if EU leaders have shifted position. They make both complaints simultaneously.
France’s Emmanuel Macron has said the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is ‘quasi-ineffective’ for people over 65, yet his ministers have since been all over the airwaves threatening to sue the company for not allowing the EU to queue-jump and get more of it.
‘Europe is not going to be some Care Bear that sends money and expects nothing in return,’ said France’s Europe Minister, Clément Beaune, in an odd reference to the cuddly toy popular in the 1980s.
The Portuguese prime minister, António Costa, revealed that he ‘can’t wait for a second dose’; but then on Monday his government halted distribution of the first.
Italy banned a consignment of the vaccine from going to Australia on grounds that it was needed at home. It then seized a batch being distributed in Piedmont in Northern Italy after a man died following vaccination (officials have now confirmed his death was unrelated to the jab).
Meanwhile, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, last week outrageously asserted it is the UK which is limiting supply by prohibiting the export of vaccines — a false claim Eurocrats had been making for weeks and which prompted a formal rebuke from the Foreign Office.
It is hard to imagine that any of this would be happening if, instead of being the Oxford vaccine, it had been the Bologna vaccine or the Toulouse vaccine or the Heidelberg vaccine.
Indeed, as Nicola Magrini, the head of Italy’s medicines authority — which says the vaccine is safe — said yesterday: ‘We got to the point of a suspension because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt vaccinations . . . The choice is a political one.’
Medical staff transport a patient to a waiting ambulance after arriving on a medical helicopter evacuated from another hospital, at CHU University Hospital in Angers, France, March 15
Last night there were signs from France and Italy of an imminent U-turn. But it is already too late. The damage has been done.
The suspensions were notionally justified by fears of a link to blood clots. Even if such a risk existed, it would not justify causing thousands of needless Covid deaths. Yet there is no evidence of any such link.
The question is whether the number of such incidents — fewer than 40 following more than 17 million vaccinations —is higher among people who have had the jab than among people who haven’t.
The answer is it is not. On the contrary, it appears to be lower than both the proportion among people who have had the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and people who have had no jab.
The European Medicines Agency made clear that ‘the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk of side-effects’. Our own regulators agree, as does the World Health Organisation.
‘The bottom line, sadly, is that this good and effective vaccine is not being accepted by the public in many countries because of the row and the suspension,’ said Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the German head of the World Medical Association.
The International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis agreed: it said that ‘the small number of reported thrombotic events relative to the millions of administered Covid-19 vaccinations does not suggest a direct link.’
In plain English, the jab is safe. So why have so many EU member states stoked needless fears, reduced vaccine take-up and so guarantee a higher rate of fatalities?
When the first vaccine was authorised, I worried that prioritising the most vulnerable might undermine confidence in the inoculation programme.
Since, by definition, these groups are the likeliest to die, there was, I felt, a danger that people would blame the vaccine for what were, in fact, normal fatalities.
I had read about an outbreak of swine flu in New Jersey in 1976, to which the Ford administration responded with a national vaccine rollout.
Because 45 million Americans got the jab, some (as was statistically inevitable) died soon afterwards — in one case, dropping dead in the surgery.
It was pure coincidence, but it caused a panic — even in a pre-internet age when there was very little in the way of an anti-vax movement.
I suggested to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, that he should begin with healthcare workers and care home staff. He disagreed, arguing the absolute priority was to save as many lives as possible.
He was right and I was wrong. The British people have been admirably calm and level-headed, ignoring the deranged conspiracies of anti-vaxxers.
Across the Channel, sadly, it has been a different story.
By calling the Oxford vaccine’s safety into question, initially to distract from their own procurement failures, Eurocrats might have ended up stopping millions of people protecting themselves.
It seems EU countries will restart their programmes soon and even if the vaccine slightly increased clot risk, the balance of advantage will surely be found overwhelmingly to favour a continued rollout.
As epidemologist Dirk Brockmann from the German government’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said, ‘it is probably 100,000 times more likely [for someone] to die of Covid than because of an AstraZeneca vaccine.’
But crucial days have been lost in inoculating hundreds of thousands of people, with confidence so shaken in Covid vaccines that many will ignore the call to get a jab.
The Continent will remain closed for longer than it needed to have been — especially if rising cases (like those seen in Italy) turn into a third wave.
The EU, by peddling the sorts of scare stories we would expect from Russian or Chinese agent provocateurs, is endangering lives.
After the EU’s behaviour in recent months, you might be tempted to shrug and say ‘serves them right’.
But that would be a mistake. So far, almost 27 million doses have been administered here with no ill-effects beyond the mild symptoms that we expect after any vaccine — which show that it is working.
That number is more than in France, Germany, Italy and Portugal combined. The danger is irrational fears spread from the Continent to Britain — so our aim should be to lead by example, thereby reassuring nearby countries.
Ordinary Europeans are hardly to blame for Brussels incompetence. We wish our neighbours good health.
We also want their economies humming, buying our stuff and selling us theirs. And we want their hotels open to British travellers.
In fact, as we approach the point when most Britons are protected, I hope that we make some surplus doses available to Europe.
Eurocrats might resent it. They might even ramp up their anti-British micro-aggressions. But someone has to behave like a grown-up.
Lord Hannan is a former Conservative MEP and serves on the UK Board of Trade
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