Maintaining faith in the Oxford vaccine

But are we being kept in the dark on side effects?

As more of the UK population receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccination in the continuing battle with the Covid-19 virus, there are increasing reports of worried patients turning up at their GP and being sent on to A&E departments after suffering mild side effects, including headaches. The fears appear to have been sparked by the jab being linked to rare incidents of blood clots, which in an even rarer number of cases, said to be nineteen in the UK, have proved fatal.

In percentage terms the figures translate to one or two in a million, but nevertheless many hospitals from all parts of the UK have confirmed that increasing numbers are reporting concerns after having the vaccine, which Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, has described as an “understandable reaction”. In the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has decided to restrict the AstraZeneca jab to those under the age of 30 and some countries around the world, including Australia and Germany, are also restricting its use to younger people.

Previously though, other nations have suggested the vaccine be restricted to those over 60. Meanwhile, experts in the UK continue to stress that people are more likely to experience a blood clot as a result of catching Covid-19 than from any potential risk presented by the vaccine.

According to forecasts, the UK’s vaccination programme is likely to be largely completed by some time in August, shortly after the USA but several weeks sooner than the EU, which is gradually catching up after a slower initial vaccine response to the Covid-19 crisis. But as the “developed” nations vaccinate more of their populations, and infection and death rates fall, the virus continues to kill millions around the globe, prompting increasing calls for the richer countries to do far more to help the poorer nations where death rates are spiralling.

Many claim that until the whole world is vaccinated, the risk remains of a prolonged pandemic or another worldwide outbreak, with poorer nations simply lacking the financial or logistical resources to cope with the spread of coronavirus. The argument is that ultimately the ending of this global pandemic can only be down to the richer nations stepping up and stepping in to act, however much it costs.

What our surveys show

Despite the setbacks and the tragic loss of life linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, a huge majority of those surveyed, 84%, displayed their trust in it and were in favour of its continued use. Only 7% said we should stop using this particular vaccine and within that number the Millennial age group were the most opposed. The remaining 9% said “Don’t know”. A smaller majority, 58%, thought it either “highly unlikely” or “unlikely” that we are being kept in the dark as regards harmful side effects of Covid-19 vaccines. However, 9% thought it “highly likely” that some facts are not being disclosed and a further 16% thought it “likely”.

On this question there was a higher level of uncertainty, with 17% saying they “don’t know”. A majority figure, 36%, believe the main priority at this time should be to continue the UK vaccination programme, with almost equal numbers, 12% and 13% respectively, saying we should be ensuring the EU states and the poorer nations get enough vaccines. However, a healthy 33% said all three of those options are equally important with the final 6% saying they didn’t know.

 

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