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Every Monday, we’ll answer your questions on Covid-19 and health in a feature published online. You can submit a question here.HuffPost UK reader Stephen asked: “Should I take aspirin to reduce the risk of blood clots when taking the AstraZeneca vaccination?”With talk of a potential link between rare blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine, some are worried what that might mean for their vaccination – and their health. In extremely rare incidences, some people have experienced blood clots a couple of weeks after having the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine – with a very small number of people dying.The risk of developing a blood clot is four in one million, while the risk of dying is one in a million. To put that into perspective, travelling 250 miles in a car carries with it a one-in-a-million chance of dying in an accident, according to the BBC.Submit a coronavirus health question to HuffPost UK.So the risk is exceedingly low – but to be on the safe side, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said that under-30s in the UK can be offered an alternative jab by Pfizer or Moderna where possible. The blood clot news has startled some people however, with GPs reporting an influx of people calling up concerned about headaches after having the jab. HuffPost UK has received a few reader questions asking whether taking aspirin before or after the AstraZeneca jab could reduce the blood clot risk. This is likely to because aspirin has been used for decades as a preventative measure for recurring blood clots, as it’s a blood thinning medication – the NHS states it makes the blood less sticky and helps prevent heart attacks and stroke.The logic goes that it might then help to prevent any blood clots from forming in the body after having the Covid jab. But experts say this isn’t the case.Professor Beverley Hunt, founder of Thrombosis UK and consultant in thrombosis and haemostasis at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, told a Science Media Centre press briefing “there is no benefit” from taking it.“We have to remember this is very, very rare,” she said of the possible link between the jab and the rare types of blood clots. Of 20 million vaccine doses administered, a review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found 79 cases of these rare blood clots – and 19 deaths.The blood clots that have been seen have appeared with low levels of blood platelets. It’s thought the vaccine may trigger an immune response which could be responsible for this occurring. But because it’s very unusual and appears to be linked to the body’s immune response, Prof Hunt says “taking aspirin is not going to be helpful” and “taking an anticoagulant [blood thinner] probably isn’t going to be helpful” either.“There is no logic at all in taking aspirin after the AstraZeneca vaccine because it will not affect the occurrence of the very rare vaccine-associated thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (VATTS),” she tells HuffPost UK. “VATTs is driven by an immune response to something in the AstraZeneca vaccine. Furthermore one of the problems with VATTs is a low platelet count, which means there is increased risk of bleeding. Aspirin will make this worse.”Outside of that, she says, in healthy people, if you take aspirin and you don’t need to take it, the benefits aren’t very good and there’s a risk you can bleed spontaneously. These issues outweigh any benefits in reducing clots.That said, aspirin does have “enormous benefit” in reducing the risk of further arterial clots in those who have previously had blood clots, she adds. But this won’t apply to those having the AstraZeneca vaccine. Prof Hunt isn’t alone in her thoughts on aspirin not being very useful in this instance. Dr Kenny Livingstone, a GP and the founder of online doctor platform ZoomDoc, says aspirin isn’t advised as part of pre- or post-vaccination. “There is no current evidence to support taking this medication as part of a preventative strategy to a very, very rare side effect,” he tells HuffPost UK. If you are at risk of thrombosis or have a past history of blood clots or abnormal platelets, he advises discussing this with your GP before having your vaccine. Those who are already taking aspirin as prescribed by their GP should continue taking it before their vaccine.An AstraZeneca spokesperson wasn’t able to say whether taking aspirin before or after the vaccine was helpful. However, they did share the following statement: “AstraZeneca continues to support the ongoing investigations by the EMA and MHRA and is working with the regulators to implement changes to the product information.“The company will continue to monitor all available data and support research to better understand the nature of these events to ensure the safe delivery of the vaccine continues during this global public health crisis.”Experts are still learning about Covid-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but guidance could change as scientists discover more about the virus. To keep up to date with health advice and cases in your area, visit gov.uk/coronavirus and nhs.uk.Related...How The Vaccine Rollout Could Look Between Now And JulyUK Under-30s Will Be Offered Pfizer Or Moderna Jabs Instead Of Oxford Vaccine'I Did Not Feel A Thing': Boris Johnson Receives AstraZeneca VaccineWhy The Covid Vaccine Doesn't Break Your Ramadan FastingAnxiety And Mood Disorders More Common Among Covid-19 SurvivorsI'm Fully Vaccinated. How Much Of A Risk Am I?
The news that under-30s may be offered a different vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab (where possible) will understandably leave some people questioning what effect that will have on the vaccine schedule. After all, around 8.5 million people will need to be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead – and that’s not a small group. So, does this mean the end of July deadline for all UK adults to be offered the jab will be pushed back?For now, the answer is no. The government has confirmed to HuffPost UK it stands by its end of July deadline date. So far, more than 31 million first doses and over five million second doses have been issued in the UK. At the end of March, the government said half of the UK’s adult population had been vaccinated. There are thought to be more than 66m people living in the UK – this includes about 12m children (aged 16 and under) who are not yet eligible for vaccines. That leaves around 54m adults who need to be vaccinated with two doses. If we’ve already issued 31m first doses, we’re left with 23m people waiting for their first dose in the next few months.Different countries within the UK are working at different timeframes, which makes things slightly more complicated. For example, the NHS in England and Scotland is still trying to get the over-50s vaccinated, while in Wales, all of this group have been offered their first dose. In Northern Ireland, those aged 40-45 are now eligible for vaccination, according to the BBC.Here’s a rough timeline of how the Covid vaccine programme could pan out in the coming months.April It’s likely many of the doses issued in April will be among those who are expecting a second dose. This is due to a large batch of AstraZeneca vaccines needing to be retested and a delay in a shipment from India. That said, the Moderna vaccine is being rolled out in Wales, meaning some will be given their first dose of the jab. Initially, it’s likely people from the key priority groups who haven’t yet been given their vaccine will be prioritised, followed by the under-50s. The UK government has an aim of ensuring everyone aged 50 and over is called up to be vaccinated by April 15. The Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination (JCVI) has said once the over-50s have been given their first dose, those aged 40-49 should be next in line.MayIf you’re 49 and under – without an underlying medical condition – you’re likely to have your first jab near the end of April, or into May.When the UK government announced the vaccine slowdown, it confirmed people in their 40s are likely to have to wait until May to get their jab.Based on the rate people have been vaccinated so far, it could be fair to assume the 40-49 cohort might’ve been jabbed by the end of May. However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would not provide a rough timeframe when HuffPost UK asked.It’s hoped supply will be back up and running by May, and in addition to the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs, the NHS will also be rolling out the Moderna vaccine more widely.Two other vaccines are also being assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that could help speed things up. According to reports, Novavax could be approved for use soon, while the Johnson & Johnson jab (a single dose shot) is also awaiting approval. JuneBased on how quickly the vaccines have been issued so far in 2021 – and the impending deadline of getting everyone invited for vaccination by the end of July – those in the 30-39 bracket could be called up for the jab in June if they don’t have an underlying health condition. JulyAll being well, it makes sense that the last group to be vaccinated – the 18-29 year olds – are likely to be waiting until the end of June, and into July, to get the jab – depending on how quickly the vaccines are rolled out in the earlier months.Health secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News 1.6m of this cohort have already received their first jab (because they have underlying conditions or are unpaid carers). He said the remaining 8.5m would be able to say if they would prefer to have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when the time comes – saying there will be enough of each to go around. The change has been made because the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) altered its recommendations for the under-30s over a very rare risk of blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Even with the change in guidance surrounding the under-30s, and the various delays in shipments throughout April, the government says it’s on track to offer jabs to all adults over the age of 18 by the end of July.“When people are called forward, they should get their jab,” a spokesperson said. “Vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic and provide strong protection against Covid-19.”Related...With So Many Vaccinated, Why Is There Still A Third Wave Risk?Vaccine Delays: Here's What The Slowdown Means For YouUK Under-30s Will Be Offered Pfizer Or Moderna Jabs Instead Of Oxford VaccineWhy Brazil Is 'The Most Dangerous Place In The World Right Now'Vaccine Rollout Could Be ‘Breaking The Link’ Between Infections, Deaths And Hospital Admissions
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The trial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in children has been paused while regulators investigate reports of a rare form of blood clot among adults.The University of Oxford said that no safety concerns have arisen from the trial itself.But it is waiting for more information from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before giving any more vaccinations.Regulatory bodies from the UK, Europe and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are assessing data on the jab and a potential association with a rare form of blood clot.The WHO and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have confirmed they will publish findings later this week.The University of Oxford said in a statement: “Whilst there are no safety concerns in the paediatric clinical trial, we await additional information from the MHRA on its review of rare cases of thrombosis/thrombocytopaenia that have been reported in adults, before giving any further vaccinations in the trial.“Parents and children should continue to attend all scheduled visits and can contact the trial sites if they have any questions.”Sage adviser Professor Calum Semple said that the decision was made out of “exceptional caution” and urged people to continue accepting Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs.He told Channel 4 News: “This has been done out of exceptional caution and the big story still is that for a middle-aged, slightly overweight man, such as myself, my risk of death is one in 13,000 – the risk of this rare clot, which might not even be associated with the vaccine, is probably one in a million.“So I’m still going to say it’s better to get the vaccine than not get the vaccine and we can pause and take time to carefully consider the value for children because they’re not at risk of death from Covid.”He added: “If you’ve been called for the vaccine then you’re in an age group that is very likely to benefit from the vaccine. So the bottom line is if you’ve been called for the vaccine I would urge you to take the vaccine.”The prime minister urged the public to trust the regulator on vaccine safety.Boris Johnson said getting the population vaccinated was “the key thing”, while he visited the AstraZeneca manufacturing plant in Macclesfield.“On the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the best thing people should do is look at what the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) say, our independent regulator – that’s why we have them, that’s why they are independent,” he said.“Their advice to people is to keep going out there, get your jab, get your second jab.”He added: “The best thing of all is to vaccinate our population, get everybody out getting the jab, that’s the key thing and that’s what I would advocate, number one”.The MHRA is also investigating reports of a very rare and specific type of blood clot in the brain, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), occurring together with low levels of platelets (thrombocytopenia) following vaccination.It has not confirmed when it will report its findings.The EMA’s said that its safety committee has “not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing” but it is expected to announce findings on Wednesday or Thursday.Meanwhile, experts from the WHO confirmed they were also convening a panel of experts to assess the data and will publish findings on Wednesday or Thursday.Dr Rogerio Pinto de Sa Gaspar, director of regulation and prequalification at the WHO, said: “There is no link for the moment between the vaccine and thrombolytic events with thrombocytopenia.“There are a number of committees and regulatory authorities looking at data and new data is coming every day and [they are] assessing those data.“Of course it’s under evaluation and we wait for some feedback from those committees in coming days and hours.“The appraisal that we have for the moment, and this is under consideration by the experts, is that the benefit-risk assessment for the vaccine is still largely positive.”He announced that the WHO will convene its Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety to examine the data.“So we expect that probably by the end of Wednesday or Thursday we might have a fresh conclusive assessment from our experts,” he added.“But at the present moment we are confident that the benefits risk assessment for the vaccine is largely still positive.”The MHRA has said it identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events out of 18.1 million doses of the jab administered up to and including March 24.There have been seven deaths among the 30 cases.But the regulator said the benefits of the vaccine in preventing coronavirus outweigh any risks and it urged the public to continue coming forward for the jab.MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “People should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.“Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.“No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”The 30 cases in the UK include 22 reports of CVST and eight of other thrombosis events with low platelets.CVST clots stop blood draining from the brain properly.Related...UK's Vaccine Rollout 'On Track' Despite Sharp Slowdown In JabsI'm Fully Vaccinated. 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The factory hasn't been certified by regulators to distribute the doses to the public, the New York Times reported.
A UK regulator said despite concerns over blood clots in the wake of AstraZeneca's shot, the doses are safe and the benefits outweigh possible risks.
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