Spreading fears over the Oxford vaccine undercuts science and public health
It has been a disquieting week for those concerned about the lifting of Covid restrictions. Numbers of cases and deaths may be declining but the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to cases of rare blood clots and has been suspended for use in younger people in Germany and the Netherlands is a disturbing development. The AstraZeneca jab is the prime hope we have of clearing Britain of this disease and is now, once again, under hostile scrutiny. Not for the first time, this vaccine has become enmeshed in geopolitics and its usefulness questioned. It is a grim story.
In this case, fears have been raised that the vaccine may be linked to seven deaths among a total of 30 rare blood-clotting cases that arose after administration of the vaccine. That is of obvious concern, but a quick look at the arithmetic puts those fears into perspective. Those 30 cases occurred among 18 million recipients of the AstraZeneca jab, a risk of less than one in 500,000. Now run this simple thought experiment and ask what would happen if we stopped the vaccination of 500,000 middle-aged people, say, for a month? About 85 would be hospitalised and about five would die from Covid, it is estimated. Those figures reveal the power of vaccinations that have already prevented more than 6,000 Covid deaths in the UK, with tens of thousands of lives likely to be saved this year.
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