Jamaica’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, says that to date, there have been no local reports of blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
The CMO said that the World Health Organization (WHO) Advisory Committee and the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medical Agency (EMA) have been assessing, over time, the available safety data on the AstraZeneca vaccine and have concluded that the vaccine is not necessarily associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots, which are thromboembolic pulmonary and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) events.
She said the WHO has emphasized that although it is plausible that these events could be linked to the vaccine, this has not been confirmed and additional specialized studies are needed in order to better characterize the potential association between vaccination and risk factors.
Citing WHO/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) data, Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie pointed out that approximately 200 million individuals have received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine globally, with 146 reports of the very rare events of blood clots with low platelets.
“Based on the available information, the WHO and EMA currently consider that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweighs the risk, given the risk of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, and recommend that vaccinations continue,” she said.
Furthermore, she noted, the PAHO/WHO recommends that the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines should be monitored and encourages the reporting and investigation of the presumed adverse events.
In March, several European countries including France, German, Spain, and Italy had suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has not been approved for use in the United States, but most Caribbean countries have been administering the shots to their population.
Jamaica’s minister of health and wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton said that the government is being guided by WHO and was comfortable with its distribution of the vaccine.
Dr. Bisasor-McKenzie has advised patients to “seek immediate medical care if, especially within four to 20 days of vaccination, they have any difficulty breathing, chest pains, inflammation in the legs, persistent abdominal pain, neurological symptoms or small spots of blood under the skin beyond the injection site”.
“These are events that you can have with or without COVID vaccination, but if you have any of these events, you should report immediately to your doctor, and that’s our recommendation from the Ministry of Health and Wellness as well,” she said.