FILE Photograph:( Reuters )
Multiple reports have linked AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots. The European regulator has confirmed this. Blood clots have been listed as a rare side effect
The conversation around the Wuhan virus keeps evolving from masks to lockdowns to vaccines. The big debate now is about side effects. How serious are they?
Do the benefits still outweigh the risks? The answer may depend on where one lives.
Multiple reports have linked AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots. The European regulator has confirmed this. Blood clots have been listed as a rare side effect.
The EU member states are free to decide for themselves whether to continue the rollout or stop it.
The Astrazeneca vaccine is still humanity's best bet against the virus. It is cheap it is easy to store and it is easy to transport. Yes, there could be a causal link between clots and the vaccine.
But the benefits still outweigh the risks. If it's a toss-up between a blood clot and the Wuhan virus, the expert opinion is clear. The virus is much deadlier. The risk of infection is much more potent.
But it doesn't take much for the world to panic nowadays. And after last year it is difficult not to.
Vaccines are already in short supply. Some countries are yet to get shipments. A global wave of vaccine hesitancy is the last thing we need. So how do we navigate this?
The World Health Organisation has a huge role to play. The WHO says the blood clot link is plausible, but not confirmed. So there's still a question mark. An expert committee will meet next week to review the data.
If the WHO makes the right noises. There is still hope for AstraZeneca. Because right now countries are pandering to the hysteria.
Italy has limited the vaccine to people above 60 years. Britain is offering alternative jabs to below 30s. So you can get a Pfizer or Moderna shot instead of AstraZeneca in the UK.
This is the first time Britain has waivered. In Spain the jab will be available only for those aged 60o and above. But across the Atlantic, in Latin America, both, Mexico and Brazil plan to stick with the current policy.
Australia and the Philippines are also imposing limits. People below 50 cannot get the Astrazeneca jab in Australia. And in the Philippines, the limit is 60 years.
The bottom line is this, there is no universal policy on the AstraZeneca vaccine. It's every nation for itself. But what about the other vaccines in the market? Are they foolproof?
Side effects are universal, all medicines trigger unwanted reactions. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are no different.
These are the common side effects listed by the US CDC (Centre for disease control)
Tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. Some of these cases were serious. In the US the first few weeks saw multiple cases of severe allergic reactions including Anaphylaxis.
In rare cases, this can cause your windpipe to swell up, cutting off your oxygen supply.
It's a life-threatening condition. Pfizer and Moderna are yet to be subjected to AstraZeneca's level of scrutiny. But that could change in the coming weeks. Because the US Has launched a new clinical trial.
It targets are Moderna and Pfizer. 3400 adults will be part of the trial. The results are expected at the end of summer.
But here's the catch.
America would have administered millions of doses by the time the results are out. So in effect, this is a retrospective study.
Another question is. Why is there sudden furore over side effects? They've existed as long as medicine itself. In most cases society ignores them looking at the greater good.
The most striking example is the birth control pill.
Side effects of the birth control pill include weight gain, depression, mood swings and also, blood clots.
So where is Britain's alternative for the birth control pill? Will Australia, Italy and others ban their use? It is unlikely.
The conversation around AstraZeneca must be rooted in Science. Governments must listen to scientists.