The headlines have closely followed the development of the COVID-19 vaccine: from a completely unknown virus, to a race between big pharma to the miraculously quick conception of an effective vaccine.
AstraZeneca (AZ), in collaboration with Oxford University, were one of the very first to produce the life-saving vaccine, with many countries quickly rolling out their vaccinations.
Recently however, many countries across Europe, as a result of the European Commission’s decision (which is increasingly looking like a political move), put their vaccine rollouts on pause due to fears of supposed side-effects, in the form of rare blood clots.
This was done, despite the UK’s regulator, the MHRA, The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) all explicitly stating and emphasising the safety and effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Furthermore, there was of course already, through the trials for the vaccine, a great deal of research and supporting data to support the fact that the vaccines are effective and safe.
It is also worth noting that these findings have not controlled for any underlying risks meaning that the blood clots have been linked to the vaccine without due evidence. For example, the proportion of people who presented with the blood clots in question, was lower than would anyway be expected in a population, again, evidence to further suggest the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
So what are the actual statistics?
The AZ vaccine is claimed to have been linked to blood clots in 3 out of 10,000,000 cases, or put in another way, in a tiny proportion of people; so small in fact that it cannot be directly attributed to the vaccine. To put this in perspective, and to emphasise just how safe the AstraZeneca (and indeed all other) vaccine is, here are 10 things more likely to happen than a blood clot from the AZ vaccine:
A young person dying of COVID-19
Part of the concern surrounding these blood clots is that they are seemingly a more prevalent side-effect in young people (aged 20-55). The statistic for this is about 0.00038 %. However, even though young people are thought to be less susceptible to the disease, the risk of a 20-year old dying from COVID-19 is about 1 in 16,000, a risk 15 times higher than that of having a blood clot supposedly caused by the vaccine.
Blood clots caused by taking the contraceptive pill
The birth control pill is used globally as a contraceptive method in women and girls, sometimes as young as 12-years-old. The American FDA estimates that the risk of birth control users developing a serious blood clot is between 3-9 women out of 10,000 annually, a stat that is of course never used as a deterrent for starting the use of this widely used pill. Compared to the risk of blood clots associated with the vaccine, that linked to the contraceptive pill is far higher.
Being struck by lightning
They say that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, and yet chances of being struck by lightning are the leading cause of weather-related deaths at around 1 in 500,000 annually. In certain parts of the world and at certain times of year, the chances are even higher. Interestingly, there seem to be key gender differences as well with males 5 times more likely to get struck than women. Approximately 85% of lightning-related deaths are men.
Finding a four-leaf clover on your first try
These little plants are not quite one in a million but, in fact, 1 in 10,000. Despite their almost myth-like status, 1 in 10,000 people find a four-leaf clover on their first try; a statistic that again, is even higher than developing a blood clot after the AZ vaccine by the EU Commission’s numbers.
Having a blood clot without having had the vaccineThe lifetime probability of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is between 2 and 5 percent with around 1 in 1000 cases annually. This is far higher than the extremely low percentage of apparently COVID-19 vaccine-related cases. Again, you are far better off taking the protective vaccine.
Giving birth to quadruplets
The chances of giving birth to not just one but four babies in one go is 1 in 571,787. Having just one baby is a miracle but with each additional child in the womb, the chances of it happening get and fewer. For twins, it is estimated that 1 in 250 natural births will result in twins. For triplets, this statistic shifts to one in 10,000.
Catching COVID twice
In an ongoing immunity study by Public Health England (PHE), they found 44 potential re-infections out of a group of 6,614 people who had previously had COVID-19 (around 0.7%). In a study carried out in Brazil, looking at healthcare workers, it was found that there was a 7% reinfection rate and that these cases tended to suffer worse symptoms the second time around. Ironically here, by taking the vaccine you would of course hugely reduce your chances of catching or transmitting the virus in the first place.
Being involved in a shark attack
The plot of Jaws may seem far-fetched but, in fact, 1 in 3.7 million people fall victim to a fatal shark attack annually. Sharks are known as one of the world’s most dangerous creatures and have, unsurprisingly, taken the starring role in many horror films. The United States has the most shark attacks in the world, with around 48 occurring annually. The chances of a shark attack being fatal are lower with around eight fatal shark attacks worldwide per year, typically in the US, Australia or South Africa.
Cracking open a double-yolked egg
This surprise addition to your breakfast is not as uncommon as it may seem, with 1 in 1000 eggs hosting a double yolk. Legend says that double-yolked eggs can be a sign of good luck and may signify that someone in the immediate family is pregnant. If you crack a double-yolked egg whilst pregnant, the two yolks are meant to signify twins.
Being dealt a royal flush
The most coveted poker hand is a “royal flush” which consists of a straight from ten to the ace with all five cards from the same suit. In a normal five-card poker game, the likelihood of being dealt a game-saving Royal Flush is 0.00015% which is the number of royal flushes divided by the total number of poker hands. If you were inclined to believe you could get a blood clot from the AZ vaccine, you would be better off playing a high stakes game of poker.
Ceasing the AZ vaccine rollout has left many across Europe extremely frustrated with many essential workers, teachers and vulnerable parties left to guess when the rollout will be resumed, with Europe’s already stuttering start to the vaccine programme being under question.
Though many politicians may generally prefer to err on the side of caution, the link between blood clots and the vaccine are at best, highly negligible. If the statistics are what it is thought to be, the risk is still extremely low and exponentially lower than the risk of contracting COVID-19 and incurring its associated symptoms.
TechRound’s advice? Get the vaccine!