The Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday recommended that the rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine should continue, adding that people would be informed of all known risks.
The European Medicines Agency in a statement Wednesday said that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects” of the vaccine.
“The reported combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is very rare, and the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects,” the statement said.
The ministry’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices yesterday morning held a meeting to discuss the issue, committee convener Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) told a news conference in Taipei.
Based on all available data, cases of pulmonary vascular embolism or deep vascular embolism that occurred after the vaccine was administered were unrelated to the jabs, he said.
The European agency’s findings show that the vaccine might increase the incidence of even rarer cerebral venous embolism, but its advantages still outweigh its disadvantages, Lee said.
People who are undergoing hormone therapy or take oral contraceptives should stop their regimes at least 28 days before getting vaccinated, he said.
Health authorities would inform individuals of all known risks prior to administering the vaccine, Lee said, adding that people should seek medical attention as soon as possible if related symptoms occur.
Commenting on South Korea, which suspended the vaccination with the AstraZeneca jab of people under the age of 60, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that Seoul introduced the policy after three cases of blood clotting were reported.
South Korea resumed the vaccination of people younger than 60 after the statement by the European agency, said Chuang, who is the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) spokesman.
National Taiwan University Children’s Hospital superintendent Huang Li-min (黃立民) said that listing embolism as a side effect of the vaccine was equivalent to confirming a causal relationship.
According to data from the EU and US, the incidence of embolism after the vaccine is about one in 100,000, Huang said, adding that younger people are at greater risk than older people, and women at greater risk than men.
However, conclusive data on the incidence rate among Asians is not available, he said.
The CECC should update its vaccine priority groups and administer the AstraZeneca jabs only to older people, Huang said.
Hwang Kao-pin (黃高彬), deputy chief of the Taichung’s China Medical University Hospital’s infection control center, said that although the European authorities believe that embolism is a side effect of the vaccine, they do not recommend suspending the jabs.
The rate of Asians who were infected with adenoviruses, on which the AstraZeneca vaccine is based, is much higher than in Western populations, he said.
If a person has adenovirus antibodies in their blood, the immune response to the vaccine might be reduced, which would also reduce the risk of side effects, including embolism, he said.
Taiwan should therefore not slow down the rollout of the jabs, Hwang added.
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