CORONAVIRUS/Recipients of AstraZeneca vaccine to be warned of blood clot symptoms

04/08/2021 06:00 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, April 8 (CNA) In light of a "possible link" found between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clots, recipients of the vaccine in Taiwan will be advised to remain alert for blood clot related symptoms, health officials said Thursday.

The rollout of the vaccine will still continue, and young women -- who make up most of the blood clot cases reported in Europe -- will not be prevented from getting the vaccine, said Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎), head of Taiwan's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Lee, who was speaking at a press briefing hosted by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), stressed that the potential negative consequences of getting COVID-19 are far greater than the low chance of forming rare blood clots.

That is why people of a certain age or gender will not be stopped from getting the vaccine, Lee said.

However, it is important that recipients are aware of the symptoms of blood clots and see a doctor immediately if they develop any of the symptoms in the 14 days after being vaccinated, Lee said.

The symptoms listed by the CECC include shortness of breath, chest pain, persistent abdominal pain, severe and persistent headaches, blurred vision, swelling or coldness in one's arms and legs, and tiny blood or bruised spots under the skin beyond the site of injection.

Other than greater awareness of these symptoms, individuals should also talk to their doctor before getting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Lee said.

Anyone taking birth control or receiving hormonal therapy should pause their treatment for at least 28 days before receiving the jab, Lee added.

Lee Ping-ing. Photo courtesy of the CECC
Lee Ping-ing. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Lee's comments were made in response to a report by the European Medicines Agency, which said Wednesday that it had found a "possible link" between the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and "very rare cases of unusual blood clots with low blood platelets."

"Unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects" of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the agency said.

The agency's conclusion is based on a review of the 62 cases in which blood clots occurred in veins in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, CVST) and 24 cases of blood clots in the abdomen (splanchnic vein thrombosis) it received as of March 22, of which 18 were fatal.

The cases were reported in Europe and United Kingdom, where around 25 million people had received the vaccine as of that date, the agency noted.

Most of the cases reported occurred in women under 60 years old within 2 weeks of vaccination.

Based on available data, the agency said it cannot determine whether age or gender is linked with the rare blood clots, although it did say that the blood clots may result from an individual's immune response.

The agency advised recipients of the vaccine to see a doctor immediately if they develop blood clot related symptoms, and stressed that the overall benefits of getting the vaccine still outweigh the risks.

The report has prompted several countries to adjust their rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine. U.K. authorities said that those under 30 years old will be offered a different vaccine, while in France, the vaccine will be recommended for only those aged 55 or older. In Italy and Germany, the vaccine will be recommended for people over 60, according to media reports.

Huang Li-min (黃立民), an infectious disease specialist and physician, said on Thursday that in light of the blood clot cases, the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given first to older people in Taiwan.

Taiwan has received two shipments of COVID-19 vaccines so far -- 117,000 doses bought directly from AstraZeneca, which expire on June 15, and 199,200 AstraZeneca doses supplied through COVAX, which expire on May 31.

Since the vaccine rollout began in Taiwan on March 22, only 20,075 people have been vaccinated, about 1,180 people daily.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Chiang Yi-ching)

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