Thursday, May 30, 2024

“Vax that failed to shield”

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In a revelation that has shaken many parts of the world which is yet to recover from the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has admitted that its widely used vaccine ‘Covishield’ can cause Thrombosis Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), a serious condition suffered by some vaccine takers, with symptoms including blood clots and alarming platelet levels.
The company has claimed that Covishield causes TTS in “very rare cases”. However, media reports suggest that it has downplayed the situation to stave off a flood of lawsuits. Going by legal challenges across the globe, AstraZeneca may have to eventually cough up millions of dollars in legal payouts. At least 90% of Indians are vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot, which is produced by the Serum Institute of India under a licence.
Eminent epidemiologist Dr Raman Gangakhedkar has gone on record that the risk of rare side effects is the highest after the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but lowers with the second and is lowest with the third.
According to him, only seven to eight individuals out of every 10 lakh who received Covishield face the risk of experiencing TTS.  “If a side effect has to happen, it will show up within the initial two to three months,” Gangakhedkar added.
Gangakhedkar, who was the face of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) during government briefings on Covid-19, said: “Within six months of the launch of the vaccine, TTS was recognised as a rare side effect of the adenovirus vector vaccine. There is nothing new or change in understanding of the vaccine.”
British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, along with Oxford, developed its Covid vaccine that is sold under brand names ‘Covishield’ and ‘Vaxzevria’, among others. The vaccine was initially rolled out in 2021, amid millions of deaths due to Covid-19 across the world.
In 2021, the ‘rushed rollout’ was criticised by many in the scientific community and questions were raised about the propriety of rushing vaccine administration. In just three years, AstraZeneca faces class action suits over claims that its vaccine caused serious injury or death in dozens of cases.
For, in legal documents submitted to the UK High Court in February, the pharmaceutical giant accepted that its COVID-19 vaccine “can, in very rare cases, cause TTS”.
“It is admitted that the AZ vaccine can, in very rare cases, cause TTS. The causal mechanism is not known,” the company said in the document, which has since shaken the world due to its grave implications.
Curiously, the company added in the document: “Further, TTS can also occur in the absence of the AZ vaccine (or any vaccine). Causation in any individual case will be a matter for expert evidence.”
Lawyers for the pharma giant, in a letter of response sent in May last year, had previously contended: “We do not accept that TTS is caused by the vaccine at a generic level”. Hence, the pharma giant’s recent statement is seen as a ‘confession’.

Medical claims against the company
According to media reports, the first case against the company was lodged by Jamie Scott, father of two, who was 44 when he received the vaccine. Ten days after the jab, Scott complained of tiredness and started vomiting. Soon after, his speech got impaired, and he had to be taken to the hospital, where physicians diagnosed him with a suspected case of Vaccine-induced Immune Thrombocytopenia and Thrombosis (VITT). Although he survived the ordeal, he was left with a permanent brain injury.
Apart from the one relating to Scott, 51 other cases have been lodged against the company, with victims and grieving relatives seeking damages estimated to be worth up to £100 million ($125.36 million).
Lawyers for the victims argue that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is ‘defective’ and that its efficacy has been ‘vastly overstated’. AstraZeneca has strongly denied these claims.

WHO view
As per the World Health Organization, the side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine include typically short-term and self-limiting mild-to-moderate symptoms. The vaccine has been associated with a range of common side effects, including discomfort at the injection site, a general feeling of being unwell, fatigue, fever, headaches, nausea, muscle and joint pain, swelling, redness at the site of injection, dizziness, sleepiness, excessive sweating, abdominal pain, and instances of fainting. These, however, happen in less than 1 in 100 people
Amid reports of adverse effects, including blood clots due to the vaccine, several countries suspended the COVID-19 vaccine’s use.
In March 2021, Austria suspended the use of one batch after two people developed blood clots after the vaccine jab and one of them died. Over time, dozens of nations, many of them in Europe, suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The nations that have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine include Denmark, Ireland, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Congo, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Canada, Sweden, Latvia, Slovenia, Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

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