Australia’s latest vaccine safety data shows blood clot issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine are incredibly rare, with just 24 confirmed cases after more than 2.1 million doses of the shot.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has moved to reassure Australians that the most common side-effects of the COVID vaccines are also those “commonly experienced with vaccines generally”, downplaying anxieties that coronavirus jabs are of any more concern than other widely-used medications.
The most common side-effects are headaches or muscle pain, which subside quickly, the medical regulator said.
“This is a safe vaccine… My wife, my mother and my mother-in-law have all had the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Labor’s shadow health minister, Mark Butler, said it was a “safe and effective vaccine”, adding “as soon as I can, I will be taking that vaccine.”
The latest data from AstraZeneca, based on real-world evidence from those who’d received the shot, found just single dose of the two-dose jab was 80 per cent effective in preventing COVID death, and reduced likelihood of hospitalisation by 73 per cent.
But Australian doctors have reported patients have raised concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine, after it was linked to a small number of blood clot or low blood platelet issues around the world – known as ‘thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome’, or TTS.
The TGA has reported a small number of such issues in Australia, and on Thursday, its latest ‘vaccine safety report’ revealed health authorities had confirmed just a handful of cases here.
“This takes the total Australian reports of cases assessed as TTS following the AstraZeneca vaccine to 24. So far about 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered,” the TGA said.
The 24 cases out of 2.1 million doses would represent just one TTS cases per 100,000 vaccines doses given in Australia. The TGA said 21 of those cases were considered ‘confirmed’, and three were ‘probable’.
Of those, 23 of the 24 were recovering and stable, with 21 out of hospital and two still receiving treatment. Sadly, one 48-year-old woman from NSW died after being diagnosed with TTS.
The report, made up of statistics as of May 16, did not include Thursday’s case of a South Australian man in hospital.
The TGA also said it was investigating eight reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in people who had received AstraZeneca. The TGA noted GBS already “occurs in the population at a background rate of 2 – 3 cases per 100,000 per year”, while eight reports out of 2.1 million doses would represent 1 in 262,500.
More common after receiving a COVID vaccine, the TGA said, were mild side-effects like headaches or muscle soreness – common reports after receiving vaccines like the flu shot.
“The most frequently reported suspected side effects associated with Comirnaty (Pfizer) and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines continue to be events that were seen in the clinical trials, and are commonly experienced with vaccines generally,” the TGA said.
As of May 16, there were 6.4 “adverse events” reports per 1000 doses of vaccine given. Adverse events include very minor or mild effects like lethargy and fatigue.
The most common reactions after either AstraZeneca or Pfizer jabs were were headache, fever and muscle pain.
The TGA said for those reporting fever, “half said they were better within two days.”
Mr Morrison’s close family received the AstraZeneca jab, as have numerous politicians and health experts including:
- Health Minister Greg Hunt
- health department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy
- Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton
- NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
- former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott
- Labor MPs Richard Marles and Linda Burney
- Indigenous affairs minister Ken Wyatt
- West Australian Premier Mark McGowan
“You’re more likely to get a clot at whatever age you are on a long-haul flight to Europe or North America than you are getting this jab,” Professor Sutton said, when getting his vaccine in April.
“It’s a risk we accept because it’s really small.”
Mr Morrison again assured Australians that the nation’s COVID vaccines have passed rigorous testing by the TGA, which he called the world’s best medical regulator.
“Greg Hunt has the AstraZeneca when it was available, as did Professor Brendan Murphy,” the PM said on Thursday.
“So this is a safe vaccine… This is a broad population vaccine. We vaccinate millions of people here in the country.”
Mr Morrison said he was pleased to see 95,000 vaccinations administered in Australia on Tuesday, a new record, and urged people to line up for a jab.
“There’s plenty of AstraZeneca jabs that are out there in the GPs’ clinics,” he said.