IIt has been an unsettling week for those concerned about the lifting of Covid restrictions. The number of cases and deaths may be declining, but the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to rare cases of blood clots and has been discontinued for use in younger people in Germany and the Netherlands is a disturbing development. . The AstraZeneca coup is our main hope of cleansing Britain of this disease and is now once again under hostile scrutiny. It is not the first time that this vaccine has become entangled in geopolitics and its usefulness is questioned. It is a gruesome story.
In this case, fears have been raised that the vaccine may be linked to seven deaths out of a total of 30 rare cases of blood clotting that arose after administration of the vaccine. That’s an obvious concern, but a quick look at the arithmetic puts those fears in perspective. Those 30 cases occurred among 18 million AstraZeneca jab recipients, a risk of less than one in 500,000. Now run this simple thought experiment and ask what would happen if we stopped vaccinating 500,000 middle-aged people, say, for a month. About 85 would be hospitalized and around five would die from Covid, it is estimated. Those figures reveal the power of vaccines that have already prevented over 6,000 Covid deaths in the UK, and tens of thousands of lives are likely to be saved this year.
It is also not clear that there is a causal link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and clots (most of which are a variety called cerebral sinus venous thrombosis, CSVT). However, even if there is such a connection, we must bear in mind that among the many impacts of Covid, clotting events are included. Fundamentally, the chances of a clot being formed through infection with the Covid virus are several orders of magnitude more likely than the chances of a clot being formed by the vaccine. Hence the strong advocacy for the AstraZeneca vaccine by most UK doctors and scientists.
Yet swaths of Europe continue to restrict its use at a time when many nations are suffering from a third wave of Covid-19 cases and have said they are desperate for vaccine supplies. It is a puzzling answer. Think of Germany. He initially decided not to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to older people for fear of safety. Then he approved it for all his citizens. And then Germany changed its mind again last week and decided to give it only to the elderly and reject its use for the younger ones.
Such hesitation is absurd and harmful. Public trust in vaccines will be crucial in lifting the world out of its Covid nightmare. The signals sent by Germany, and the Netherlands and many other European nations, are worrying. In the UK, it has sparked fears among senior public health officials that a growing number of younger people, particularly women who have increased risk of developing these blood clots, may avoid the AstraZeneca jab.
It is the only approved vaccine that can be shipped easily and does not require complicated refrigeration. But if its security is constantly undermined by individual national regulators across Europe, developing countries will hesitate to use it. Why should they accept a vaccine that Western society mocks?
It is difficult to determine why the AstraZeneca vaccine has been subject to constant weakness. Kate Bingham, who led Britain’s successful Vaccine Task Force, described the British-Swedish company as “heroes” for the way it took a step forward to provide a safe, effective and easy-to-apply vaccine, developed by first time at Oxford University, and indicated that he regretted that he has been “trapped in geopolitics.” Certainly, it is strange that the only vaccine that is sold at cost, and that has avoided the typical high-price plans of Big Pharma, is the one that has been the subject of the most vilification.
The world urgently needs more than 11 billion doses of vaccines to provide the 5.8 billion adults on our planet with double injections that will rid humanity of Covid-19, with more doses needed in the future to counter virus variants. Till the date, more than 600m doses have been administered. The 3 billion doses that have been promised by AstraZeneca this year It will make a big difference in protecting humanity. However, it is being rejected for questionable reasons.
It may be tempting to indulge in a dose of schadenfreude vaccine. Once ridiculed for its initial Covid responses (late shutdowns, poor testing and tracking programs), the UK has succeeded with its vaccine launch program, while the EU has failed. But as Covid continues to spread across Europe, Britain’s borders will need to remain closed. As the motto goes: no one is safe until everyone is safe. It is trivial but correct and that is why we need all the vaccines that we can.
Forty years ago, when the zoonotic AIDS pandemic first appeared, it took scientists four years to develop a test that could determine whether people were infected – a crucial first step if you want to track and contain a disease. With Covid-19, scientists developed a test in less than a month, while the vaccines were approved in a year. Dramatic scientific improvements have made it possible to survive this pandemic, and not just in medicine. Without Zoom calls, PCR testing, the Internet, and genome sequencing, our global lockdown would have been impossible.
The problem is that science and technology alone are inadequate to deal with catastrophes like Covid-19. The world also needs politicians, health services and civil services who can use these gifts with skill and wisdom. Supplies of these attributes have been inconsistent in most Western countries. Britain has done well with its current mass and rapid launch of vaccines, but that is no guarantee that it will not return to the chaos of last year’s Covid responses. We still haven’t gotten out of trouble.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism