Doctors involved in the UK’s rollout say Brits due their second dose have called with concerns about the vaccine, despite the EU’s own drug regulator, as well as the UK’s and the World Health Organization all insisting it is safe.
One GP claimed up to 10 per cent of people scheduled for appointments were either not showing up, asking to cancel or double-checking which vaccine they were getting.
NHS doctor and volunteer Dr Karan Raj claimed he was ‘inundated’ with people saying they were worried about it and Dr Mohan Sekeram, a GP in South London, said the international row has led to patients refusing the vaccine.
The former chief of Britain’s vaccine regulator the MHRA, Sir Kent Woods, said European officials had ‘dented public confidence’ with their ‘disorderly’ reaction to the issue, and he described attempts to link the jab to clots as ‘a big jump’.
Doctors and officials warn that it is far more dangerous for people to not get vaccinated and even the EMA has urged people to keep taking the vaccine because blood clots aren’t actually any more common than usual.
Officials and scientists fear the knee-jerk reactions from Europe, which is now staring down the barrel of a third wave of Covid because of its own haphazard vaccination programme, risk derailing Britain’s attempts to vaccinate its way out of lockdown if people start to back out of getting their jabs.
But Britons on the street yesterday said the row hadn’t put them off, calling it ‘scare-mongering’ and saying ‘the chances of getting hit by a bus are probably higher’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today urged people to keep getting the vaccine and said Britain must ‘keep calm and carry on jabbing’ if it wants to get life back to normal – he is expected to reassure the public at a Downing Street press conference scheduled for 5pm tonight.
Health workers are afraid that Europe’s row over the safety of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will have knock-on effects on people in Britain, and there are already reports of members of the public turning down the Oxford jab. Scientists and regulators in the UK, EU and World Health Organization insist it is safe to continue using (Pictured: A man receives a vaccine at a church in west London)
More than a dozen countries in Europe have stopped using AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid unproven concerns it is linked to blood clots
Dr Raj, who is an NHS surgeon and Imperial College London lecturer, said the hysteria in the EU was having a knock-on effect in the UK, particularly among younger people.
He is part of of a team of volunteers trying to educate people about vaccine lies and myths online and said he felt compelled to create a video after being contacted by hundreds of people worried about getting the jab.
His TikTok video has already been viewed more than a million times.
Dr Raj said: ‘I have been inundated in comments on my videos about people scared about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots and worried about receiving first and second doses.
Dr Karan Raj, a surgeon and lecturer at Imperial College London (left), said he has been ‘inundated’ with comments on TikTok from people who are worried about the vaccine
‘They’ve seen the news from Europe about different countries suspending their vaccination and that has made them worried with some saying they won’t get a jab or will wait for a Pfizer one.
‘It’s one thing to have some sort of conspiracy that goes online and that becomes a vaccine myth which is worrying, but this is at a governmental, official level. Naturally people listen to this and are led more easily by these concerns because it’s at official level.
‘But the UK has delivered more of these jabs than the rest of Europe put together and hasn’t seen the concerns that have been highlighted in Europe so I thought it was the opportune moment to put out a video to emphasise that.’
GPs say they have been contacted by patients who are either worried about the vaccine, have questions about it, or don’t want to have it any more.
Dr Mohammed Abbas Khaki, a doctor in London, told The Times his patients were ‘worried’ by the reports.
‘They’ve already had one dose and they felt maybe that will be okay,’ he said patients had told him in discussions. ‘Or maybe they should switch to Pfizer-BioNTech and restart the whole process with Pfizer.’
Switching to the Pfizer vaccine is not expected to be allowed by the NHS because regulators have not yet tested whether the jabs can be mixed up in short succession.
And there aren’t enough Pfizer doses to go around even if everybody wanted one, so the NHS doesn’t let people choose which vaccine they have – speed is the number one priority and both are proven to be safe and effective.
Dr Sarah Jarvis told Times Radio that one in 10 of her patients were either ‘just not showing up’, phoning with concerns or asking before they left home whether they were going to be given the AstraZeneca jab.
The suspension follows reports of 37 incidents around Europe of people becoming ill with blood clots shortly after having the jab.
Officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Medicines Agency and UK regulators have advised countries to keep using the vaccine because there is no evidence that these incidents were linked to vaccine.
Experts say all the evidence suggests the cases have been coincidental, with the numbers of blood clots actually lower than in the general population. Germany raised concerns about a very specific clotting condition that can affect the brain, which it claims has happened unusually often, but it has still only had seven cases.
The UK has given 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab so far, with the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine ‘no greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population’.
Dr Mohan Sekeram, a GP in South London, said the international row has led to patients refusing the vaccine with concerns over blood clots.
He said surgery staff had been working hard to ‘alleviate people’s concerns and give them as much information as possible because there’s a lot of misinformation out there.’
He added: ‘We’ve had to explain to them that actually, there’s no evidence around this and that the MHRA also holds the line there’s no substantive evidence that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots in patients who have had the vaccine.’
The Government is desperate to reassure people that the vaccine is safe and that it should continue to be used.
Business Secretary Kwasi Karteng said on BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘The first thing I would like to say is that the jab is safe.
‘We’ve got an extremely effective rollout programme – I think by the end of the week 50 per cent of the British adult population will have been vaccinated – and if people do get the call, I think they should take the jab.
‘And we are looking at the effects of the vaccine rollout day by day. Hospitalisation rates have fallen, the death rate thankfully from the disease has fallen considerably and incidence of people catching Covid has also fallen – the R rate is well below 1.0 and I think it has been a very effective programme.’
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, moved to reassure patients that the vaccine was safe.
He said: ‘Over 24 million people in the UK have now been vaccinated, many of whom have successfully received the Astra Zeneca vaccine with no side effects. Where patients have reported side effects such as flu-like symptoms and muscle aches, these have been minor and transient.
‘The public should be reassured that whilst these new vaccines were developed and approved at speed, no corners were cut and patient safety has been, and remains, paramount.’
‘There is NO indication AstraZeneca jab caused blood clots’, EU drug regulator insists
EU regulators yesterday shot down the blood clot fears which have prompted 14 European countries to call a halt to AstraZeneca jabs, saying there is no evidence the vaccine causes dangerous side-effects.
The European Medicines Agency said it was ‘firmly convinced’ that injections with the AstraZeneca shot should continue, joining the WHO and the UK government in a full-throated defence of the vaccine amid fury at EU nations including France and Germany for suspending the jabs.
EMA safety experts say a ‘very small number of people’ have come down with blood disorders but there is ‘no indication’ that these were caused by the jab, which 11million people have already had in the UK.
‘We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death outweigh the risk of these side effects,’ said EMA chief Emer Cooke.
Countries including France will now face pressure to resume AstraZeneca jabs after the EMA delivered its verdict and reiterated that the number of blood clots ‘seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population’.
Italy earlier admitted that its suspension of AstraZeneca jabs was a ‘political’ move while French doctors accused Emmanuel Macron of ‘giving in to panic’ and a German lawmaker said the ban could cause a ‘catastrophe’.
Germany sought to justify its move by saying that one particular kind of blood clot, a ‘sinus vein thrombosis’, had occurred seven times among the 1.6million people vaccinated when only around one case would be expected. By contrast, only four such cases have been identified in the UK out of 11million doses administered.