Thrombosis experts angered by stop of AstraZeneca vaccine
Thrombosis experts are baffled as to why the decision to stop with the AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday was reached based on incomplete information and without their consultation, the Volkskrant reports.
Friday afternoon the Ministry of Health announced it was suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60. Five women had suffered thrombosis earlier shortly after receiving the vaccine, including one woman who died due to a pulmonary embolism.
A clear link between thrombosis and the vaccine has not been established. According to European experts, the vaccine can trigger an extreme reaction of the immune system causing antibodies to be produced that attack their own platelets. However, in two out of five Dutch women mentioned in a report last week, no such antibodies were discovered, the side effects center Lareb states. The remaining three cases are still being investigated.
“It is arrogant to circumvent the experts”, Professor Hugo ten Cate says. “I’m getting continuously more enraged at how this happened.”
Expert on vascular diseases, Pieter Willem Kamphuisen, believes the decision was made prematurely and not based on scientific evidence. “It’s about a complex clinical picture which you need experts to judge. You must first analyze the data and only then draw conclusions.”
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that the ministry worked with public health agency RIVM, Lareb, the Dutch Health Council and the Medicines Evaluation Board in making the decision to stop using the vaccine. It did not name any vascular or thrombosis experts as being involved in talks on the issue.
Next week, thrombosis experts will meet with the RIVM and the Medicines Evaluation Board. Kamphuisen believes the meeting is too soon. “Why don’t we have time to come up with solid evidence?” he asks.
On Wednesday, the safety committee of the European Medicine Authorities (EMA) will state their opinion after analyzing all European reports. Currently, there are discrepencies amongst European countries about how dangerous the vaccine is. In the United Kingdom, where Oxford researchers developed the vaccine, the risk factor is estimated to be seven times lower than experts in the Netherlands currently believe. Out of 18 million injections in the UK, there were 30 cases of blood clots. Seven of these proved to be fatal.
According to Dutch statistics, the chance of thrombosis is about one in 100 thousand. The chance of a fatal reaction is estimated at one in 300 thousand.
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology Frits Rosendaal, wonders why the Netherlands does not wait for the EMA’s conclusion. He states, “Only when the EMA recognizes an issue, do you take measures.” Rosendaal says stopping with the use of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine was “a political decision reached out of fear that there will be more cases and the government will be accussed of having a lax attitude.”
The experts are concerned that limiting vaccinations will put a considerable strain on the health care system. Kamphuisen states that at the hospital he is working at 92 hospital workers are absent due to the coronavirus. Some of them are still suffering from the long-term consequences of contracting the disease earlier last year.
Ten Cate states “Stopping is so short-sighted that it is dangerous. “I did not expect such a decision from the government.”