Australian health authorities will urgently meet to consider a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a 44-year-old Melbourne man who was hospitalised with blood clots as seven deaths were reported among recipients of the jab in the UK.
Both the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and TGA vaccine safety investigation group will meet on Saturday to consider the case of the Melbourne man, after the acting chief medical officer, Prof Michael Kidd, said authorities were taking the case “very seriously”.
At the same time, state healthcare workers are being instructed to be on the lookout for what are considered to be very rare signs of blood clotting among those who have received the vaccine.
The man received the vaccine on 22 March and days later he presented at Melbourne’s Box Hill hospital suffering from a fever and abdominal pain. He was found to have abdominal clots with a low platelet count.
He showed symptoms similar to those which led some European countries to pause their rollout of the vaccine after 31 people who had received the jab were reported to have developed clotting in Europe and the UK.
Those cases were from millions of people who have received the vaccine in Europe, and the European Medicines Agency said preliminary data from its review of the cases suggested the risk of blood clots following the vaccine was potentially one in 100,000.
In a statement, Australia’s independent regulator of vaccines, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, stressed there was “no cause-and-effect relationship between Covid-19 vaccination and this case has been established at this stage”. However, the head of the TGA, John Skerritt, confirmed it was investigating the case.
“A small number of people, predominantly overseas have presented with clotting disorders following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.
“One case has been reported in Australia [and] is being investigated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
“Medical experts within the European Medicines Agency and the UK Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have not confirmed a causal link with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine but continue to look in great detail at the available data and clinical circumstances around these reports.”
“Similarly, our expert committees, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the National Vaccine Safety Investigation Group (VSIG), in conjunction with our independent regulator, the TGA are monitoring the situation closely, both in Australia and internationally.”
On Wednesday, German health authorities in Berlin and Munich suspended the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those under the age of 60 following new concerns around rare blood clotting. It came after the country’s medical regulator announced receiving 31 reports of blood clots in recipients of the vaccine. Nine of those people died.
A day earlier, Canada made a similar move due to the same concerns, halting the rollout for people under age 55.
On Friday, Kidd acknowledged the case may cause some anxiety, but said the benefits of the vaccine still vastly outweighed the “very small potential risk” of developing serious adverse symptoms.
“At this time, the risk of serious disease and death from Covid-19, if we experience another severe outbreak, especially among older Australians and those with severe health conditions, is far greater than the very small potential risk of a very rare clotting disorder associated with the vaccine,” he said.
“I acknowledge that people will be anxious and we will get more information to you as soon as we have available.”
The ATAGI on Friday released a statement aimed at helping state healthcare workers to identify and respond to any potential instances of clotting cases.