Sheffield health expert urges UK to send jabs around the world to ‘eradicate’ Covid danger

The British-developed AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is safe and the dangers of a coronavirus infection massively outweigh any risks of having the jab, a Sheffield public health expert has said.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 1:01 pm

Earlier this week, several European countries suspended their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a handful of patients developed blood clots in their veins after being given the long-awaited jab.

But Dr Andrew Lee, a Sheffield GP and reader in public health at the University of Sheffield, said such fears are misplaced and urged everyone to take up the vaccine if they are offered it.

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A member of the public receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images).

He said: “The first thing to say is that all the expert groups like the World Health Organisation, the European Medicines Authority and our own Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) looked at the evidence and are pretty convinced it is safe.

“The condition - venous thromboembolism - is as rare as hen’s teeth. In the UK we have vaccinated 11 million people and we have had five cases.

“In Germany they found four in a million and got really worried which led to other European Governments pausing their vaccine rollouts.

“These could be coincidence or chance and even if they are associated with the vaccine it is still extremely rare. Covid infection is the far more lethal and dangerous thing.”

GP and reader in public health at the University of Sheffield, Dr Andrew Lee.

In the UK about 4.2m people have now been infected with coronavirus, while around 146,000 have died from the killer disease.

This means around 3 per cent of those who contract the virus die as a result of their infection, making Covid far deadlier than the vanishingly small risk of venous thromboembolism.

“People get really worried about strange and exotic conditions and therefore get a disproportionate sense of risk,” said Dr Lee.

“But that could put some people who are wavering off getting the vaccination.”

Dr Lee added that while the UK had done incredibly well to procure so many vaccines for its population, more work needed to be done on distributing the vaccines around the world if the danger from Covid was truly to be eradicated.

“In this country, we have three or four doses of vaccine per person," he said.

“If some of that were to be given away it would be a wonderful act of international solidarity and it would help keep us safe as well.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.