Your editorial calling for clarity on the AstraZeneca vaccine’s side-effects risks both being unclear and undermining confidence (The Guardian view on the AstraZeneca vaccine: confidence from clarity, 7 April). You imply that the rate of potentially serious cerebral venous sinus thrombosis is 0.0001%. The important risk, though, is to those in the segment of the population who are most likely to be affected, namely younger women. If only teenagers were affected, it would make no sense to calculate the risk in the entire population.
The vast majority of vaccinations so far have been in the over-60s. So only a small proportion of young women will have been vaccinated. The risk to these women, although still small, may be as high as one in 50,000, as reported in Germany and implied by one of Jonathan Van-Tam’s graphs. Which is why the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends alternative vaccines in the under-30s. As you say, clarity and openness is the way to persuade people to keep taking the vaccine.
St Andrews, Fife
I have listened to several medical comments making a comparison between the risk of clots from the oral contraceptive pill and the AstraZeneca vaccine (Contraception blood-clot risk: ‘public need better access to advice’, 9 April). In my experience, this is not a realistic comparison.
For many years, I worked as a sexual health nurse in an NHS family planning clinic. Every woman taking an oral contraceptive had their blood pressure taken before we issued a prescription. If there was any abnormality in the reading, this would have resulted in the woman being prescribed a lower dose contraceptive or being taken off it, to avoid any risk of deep vein thrombosis.
In the case of the Covid vaccine, apart from the question of whether the person is taking any anticoagulants, there is virtually no precautionary screening. The urgency of being world-beating by vaccinating millions has maybe taken precedence and, as there is minimal physical contact, risks are inevitable.
Sale, Greater Manchester
Paradoxically, the most positive action Boris Johnson can do to boost confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine is to stop promoting it. Those hesitating about it are unlikely to accept the assurances of a prime minister with a proven track record of, at best, ambivalence and, at worst, deceit on some of the most important issues facing this country. Confidence comes from not just clarity, but from trust.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
Since ministers speak of the benefits of vaccination despite the recent emergence of evidence in a few cases of blood clots, and even death, perhaps this is the time to review whether it remains appropriate for vaccine producers to retain immunity from civil suits, and to also review the amount of statutory compensation available under the vaccine damage payment scheme.
If a patient affected by a serious side-effect cannot sue a manufacturer, is it appropriate to limit vaccine damage payments to just £120,000 (excluding possible adjustments to state benefits) when blood clots might seriously affect a person’s ability to work and earn for the rest of their life? Ministers have not been so forthcoming about this possibility.