The family of a lawyer who died from a blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine has joined the legion of voices encouraging people to still get the jab.
Britain’s medical regulator yesterday announced the Oxford-developed shots would not be used for under-30s following extremely rare cases of clotting.
The MHRA said that out of some 20million people inoculated with the jab, 79 have suffered the clotting and 19 have died.
Neil Astles, 59, from Warrington, became the UK’s first named victim after passing away on Easter Sunday following 10 days of head pains and loss of vision.
But last night his grieving family echoed the assurances from politicians and experts and stressed that keeping faith with the AstraZeneca jab was critical to ‘saving lives’.
Neil Astles, 59, from Warrington, became the UK’s first named victim after passing away on Easter Sunday following 10 days of head pains and loss of vision
A woman is given a coronavirus vaccine at Cardiff and Vale Therapy Centre
‘Despite what has happened to our family, we strongly believe that everyone should go for their first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine,’ his sister, Dr Alison Astles, told the Daily Telegraph.
‘Emotionally, we are completely and utterly furious. We are suffering. But there’s nothing in our minds to be really furious about. My brother was just extraordinarily unlucky.’
Ministers, MPs, watchdogs and health officials yesterday blitzed the public with messages to shore up support for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Boris Johnson said: ‘As the regulators have said, this vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives – and the vast majority of people should continue to take it when offered.
‘We will follow today’s updated advice, which should allow people of all ages to continue to have full confidence in vaccines, helping us save lives and cautiously return towards normality.’
Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘The AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, effective and saving thousands of lives.
‘Trust in our doctors and scientists. When it is your turn to get the jab, do so. My first dose was AstraZeneca and I look forward to getting my second dose when it is offered.’
Boris Johnson said: ‘As the regulators have said, this vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives – and the vast majority of people should continue to take it when offered’
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam underscored the improbability of suffering blood clots because of the AstraZeneca jab
Professor Wei Shen Lim, coronavirus chairman for the vaccines committee, said: ‘The Covid-19 vaccines have already saved thousands of lives and the benefit for the majority of the population is clear – if you are offered a vaccine, you should take it.’
The blizzard of messages came after the MHRA announced at a press conference that those aged 18-29 will not be offered a first dose of the AstraZeneca jab, limiting them to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are currently on stream.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam underscored the improbability of suffering blood clots because of the AstraZeneca jab – 0.000095 per cent – and that the benefit of vaccines far outweigh the risks.
Dr Astles, a pharmacist at the University of Huddersfield, agreed: ‘If we all have the vaccine, a few of us might have a blood clot but the evidence is that fewer people will die.’
She said that her brother, a married solicitor with Warrington Council who kept himself fit and healthy, developed a headache about a week after his March 17 jab.
His symptoms worsened and he was taken to A&E at the Royal Liverpool hospital, before being admitted to intensive care.
Dr Astles explained that her brother suffered cerebral sinus thrombosis and subarachnoid haemorrhage – a bleed on the brain – that killed him on the evening of Easter Sunday.
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines, said: ‘The early evidence suggests that this constellation of symptoms is caused by an immune response against platelets which allows the platelets to then lead to clotting in different parts of the body.
‘But what we don’t have clearly is the link between the vaccine and how the immune response becomes activated against the platelets.’
He said any risks from the jab had to be set against the fact around 30 per cent of people with Covid suffer low blood platelet counts, while Covid also ’causes clotting’.
Some 7.8 per cent of people with Covid suffer blood clots on the lungs, while 11.2 per cent will suffer deep vein thrombosis (DVT), he added.
He said there appears to be a ‘slightly higher risk in the younger age group’ of clots after the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the reason is ‘not clear’ with further work required.
Separately, a review by the European Medicines Agency concluded on Wednesday that ‘unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects’ of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Emer Cooke, executive director of EMA, said its review ‘confirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 overall outweigh the risk of side effects’, adding: ‘Vaccination is extremely important in helping us in the fight against Covid-19.’