Australia’s medicines regulator will meet on Saturday to determine whether the case of a Melbourne man who developed blood clots is linked to his vaccination with the AstraZeneca jab.
The 44-year-old suffered clots for the first time after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 22 and “fits the case description” of a blood-clot reaction, according to ABC health reporter Dr Norman Swan.
“He had low platelets, but he had clots in his liver, in his spleen and in his gut in general,” the Coronacast host told ABC News.
The Australian government’s top medical advisory body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will meet on Saturday amid an investigation into the man’s condition.
The TGA and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will provide an update to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
The TGA’s current advice, which was updated last month, is that there is no proven link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots.
It comes as the Dutch government temporarily halted AstraZeneca for people under 60 following a very small number of reports of unusual blood clots and three days after authorities in Germany also stopped using it in under-60s.
Meanwhile British regulators say they have identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events – 25 more than previously reported – but still believe the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any possible risk.
Two weeks ago the European Union drug regulator said the vaccine did not increase the overall incidence of blood clots following a similar scare. Most EU countries, including Germany, resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 19.
Australia’s acting chief medical officer Professor Michael Kidd said the Melbourne man’s “probable” case was being treated “very seriously” but assured the public that bloods clots were “very rare”.
“The serious risk disease and death from COVID-19, if we experience another severe outbreak, … is far greater than the very small potential risk of a very rare clotting disorder associated with the vaccine,” Professor said.
However Professor Kidd issued a note of caution as the vaccine continues to be rolled out as the main inoculation most Australians will receive.
“People should be particularly alert to severe persistent headaches occurring four to 20 days after vaccination and which are different to the usual pattern of headaches and do not settle with over-the-counter painkillers,” he said.
“If you received the AstraZeneca vaccine and experience symptoms of persistent headaches or other worrying symptoms four to 20 days after the vaccine, you should seek medical advice.”
Professor Kidd said Australian vaccine experts were in close contact with their overseas counterparts and sharing information.
Meanwhile, concerns continue to surface over the rollout of vaccines, with Queensland almost out of the Pfizer inoculation and unsure when it will receive its next delivery.
The federal government has copped flak over its handling of the vaccine rollout, with the slow pace blamed in part for Greater Brisbane’s three-day lockdown.
Prof Kidd praised the vaccine rollout on Friday, saying that as of noon on Thursday, 750,000 doses had been administered and the rate of vaccination had tripled in the past two weeks.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is concerned about the number of positive cases coming into her state and wants international arrivals halved.
She has made the request to Prime Minister Scott Morrison but is yet to get a response, and will raise the issue at the next national cabinet meeting on April 9.
“Maybe until the vaccination program is ramped up by the federal government, the number of returned travellers needs to decrease Australia-wide,” she said on Friday.
Ms Palaszczuk called for better co-ordination of the vaccine schedule.
“We should have a rolling list of … when the deliveries are coming and how much. That would just help everyone,” she said.
Following the snap three-day lockdown, Queenslanders are still under some restrictions including wearing a mask in public indoor areas, a 30-person limit on private gatherings and severely restricted visits to hospitals, aged care and disability facilities, and prisons.
States and territories vary in their restrictions on travel in and out of the sunshine state, with Western Australia by far the most strict as its border remains closed to all Queensland until it goes 28 days without local transmission.
NSW recorded its second consecutive virus-free day after a case linked to the Queensland outbreak was diagnosed in Byron Bay earlier in the week.
Netherlands suspends vaccine
The Dutch government has temporarily halted AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccinations for people under 60 three days after authorities in Germany also stopped using the AstraZeneca’s vaccine in under-60s.
A Dutch organisation that monitors vaccine side effects on Friday said it had received five reports of blood clots with low blood plate counts following vaccinations.
All the cases occurred between seven and 10 days after the vaccinations and all the people affected were women aged between 25 and 65 years.
The organisation said in the period when the five cases were reported, some 400,000 people were vaccinated in the Netherlands with the AstraZeneca shot.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says the temporary halt is a precautionary measure.
“I think it is very important that the Dutch reports are also properly investigated,” De Jonge said.
“We must err on the side of caution.”
It comes two weeks after the EU drug regulator said the vaccine does not increase the overall incidence of blood clots following a similar scare.
The European Medicines Agency said at the time that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks, but it could not rule out a link between the shot and some unusual kinds of clots, and recommended adding a warning about possible rare side effects.
De Jonge said the Dutch pause comes ahead of an update next week from the EU medicines agency on the AstraZeneca vaccine.