The Yo-Yo Chronicle that is AstraZeneca continues to undermine both the Irish and European Vaccine rollout. If you're like me, then you've probably lost faith in AstraZeneca by now. Yesterday [April 12] the Department of Health and NIAC announced under '60s would not receive the vaccine. Only weeks earlier over 70's were advised not to be vaccinated with it either. Other European countries like Spain, Italy and Germany have amended roll out similar to Ireland. France and Belgium are rolling out to over 55s and the UK to over 30s. It seems incredibly unfair to single out one cohort to be effectively Guinee-pigs for an uncertain vaccine. As was tossed out on Claire Byrne Live last night… perhaps we should consider scrapping it altogether? [April 14 update - Denmark has dropped AstraZeneca from their rollout strategy] However thousands of vaccines are expected to arrive in the coming weeks and with a chronic shortage of supply, it's not likely we will outright end AstraZeneca when experts weigh up risk vs reward.
The RCPI report that blood clotting from AstraZeneca is a rare event. Out of 1 million; 1 may die and between 4 and 10 recipients may be affected. Regulators argue that the benefits outweigh the risks for the over 60s, however, would you risk a vaccine with a 1 in a million chance of dying, if its purpose is only to prevent a risk of serious illness and death from the virus itself which you may or may not contract but contraction is still possible even with the vaccine? It's not a clear-cut decision. I believe many will gladly take it over the risks of the virus itself. But some in their 60s, who are perfectly healthy with no underlying conditions, perhaps a history of clotting (or risk of) may be reluctant.
Considering vaccine passports are on the horizon, one should not be forced to take a risky vaccine. They should have a choice in what vaccine they get, much like all of us having a choice to take the vaccine in the first place… Vaccine Passports means the vaccine is a choice between freedom or restricted freedom, therefore choosing to have or not have the vaccine on those terms as far as I'm concerned isn’t a choice, but a passive-aggressive approach to mandatory vaccinations of what is still an Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) vaccine. Something we would forget considering we've become normalized to a rollout conversation. You can learn more about EUA from the Johns Hopkins school
Just on the point of having a history of clotting, this might not mean you're at greater risk than someone without such history. This has been discussed by an expert on the Joe Finnegan Show on Shannon Side FM today [April 13]
I won't go into detail on it as I would need to re-listen before I can properly sum up the points, but it’s well worth the listen
"It could be you!"
Let's return to the 1 in a million risk. To put it into perspective… the National Lottery Ireland estimate the odds of winning the EuroMillions Jackpot is 1 in 139,838,160. By July 2020 Ireland had 16 winners since the inception of the game back in 2004, twice in 2020 alone according to the Irish Times. That averages out one per 104 jackpots a year. (104 assumed by twice a week for 52 weeks) The "Lotto" odds are estimated to be 1 in 10,737,573 and the 2014 National Lottery Ireland reported 7 Lotto Jackpot wins.
Now I'll put my hands up and admit this from the offset it's not a very scientific comparison between the two however this is how many of us will think when weighing up the risk of the jab… 1 in a million is significantly greater odds than winning the Lotto. Been that 1 in a millionth person feels much the same, emotionally logical as when purchasing a lottery ticket. How many times have you purchases a lotto ticket and felt “it could be me”? That’s how many of us feel about the AstraZeneca vaccine. At least that’s how I feel.
Actions speak louder than words and the actions over the rollout of AstraZeneca has undermined any advice present or future from experts about 'the risks of the vaccine. Today [April 13] 15,000 vaccinations have been cancelled in Ireland and redistribution will inevitably upset the supply chain and rollout. This issue undermines not just the AstraZeneca vaccine, but all vaccines, particularly when news reports today are coming in from ABC News and others reporting that the CDC and FDA in the US have called for an immediate pause of the J&J vaccine due to blood clots among 6 recipients.
As I've said from the beginning of the COVID series, these are primitive vaccines, less than a year old and their research is still ongoing. Despite this, we continue to build an exit strategy to COVID centred entirely around these vaccines. Even today the Irish times reports that the government have asked the Health Protection Surveillance Centre to look into giving exemptions from hotel quarantining to vaccinated people. From my understanding of the vaccine, there is still a risk of contraction and spread… so to me, it seems pointless having quarantine for one group and not for the other. Sure the chances of having the virus when vaccinated are probably significantly less than those without, but it's not a 100% guarantee and as I've said before, hotel quarantining should either be watertight or not utilized at all. It will be interesting to see if they approve. [April 16 update - it is official, those with a vaccine will be allowed quarantine at home and exempt from hotel quarantine while the EU commission have contact Irish authorities questioning the legality of hotel quarantine following criticism from the Italian president over discrimination. Irish Times reports more ]
Greater freedoms for those who have a vaccine will only force more people to take the jab. Yes, we need to have COVID under control and yes we need to end lockdown… But the vaccine isn’t the only way of achieving this and vaccines should be reserved for those at the greatest risk from COVID and those who are willing to risk a vaccine much like they would an experimental treatment. One could argue the vaccines are an experimental treatment considering they have only been distributed under a (EUA) Emergency Use Authorization.
[April 19 update - ABC 7 is one of a string of news agencies reporting on Pfizer CEOs recent comments on their vaccine that a third vaccine may be required “between 6 and 12 months and... there will be an annual re-vaccination.” He did however continue with “all this needs to be confirmed” however it highlights just how uncertain and an ever-developing situation this vaccine is, but also how we are letting ourselves be held at the mercy of large corporates and their vaccine strategies]
Coming up next in the series is Part 3 of Alternative Approaches where we will explore how we can manage the virus, in the absence of a vaccine for the majority of people.