Experts say comparing AstraZeneca vaccine blood-clot risk to odds of dying in a car crash unhelpful

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Trying to downplay the risk of severe but rare clotting that appears to be associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine by comparing it with the clotting risk from taking the contraceptive pill, or to the chances of dying in a car crash, is unhelpful and likely ineffective in building vaccine confidence, an expert medical panel said.

Earlier in April the Australian Technical Advisory Group for Immunisation (Atagi) recommended those aged under 50 be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a small but potentially increased risk of developing a rare and severe clotting disorder following the vaccine in that age group.

Most cases of these clots occurred in veins in the brain (a condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, or CVST) though some occurred in other areas including veins to the abdomen (splanchnic vein thrombosis). The condition has a high mortality rate.

Some health and medical experts have attempted to reassure the public that the vaccine remains safe and effective by pointing out that blood clotting is a well-known side-effect for the contraceptive pill which is nonetheless used by hundreds of thousands of Australian women. They also point out that there is more risk of dying in a car crash, yet millions of people still choose to drive every day.

Speaking at an event to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine and clotting hosted by the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre on Tuesday night, Atagi member Assoc Prof Nigel Crawford said such comparisons may not be helpful in boosting vaccine confidence.

Photo: Syringes and a vial of the vaccine against COVID-19 developed by AstraZeneca are displayed after the postponement of the vaccination program in Thailand. EPA-EFE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

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