Astra Zeneca and British roulette

In Sweden, people started to reject the Astra Zeneca vaccine because of the risk (however small) of blood clots.  In response, people in Sweden who had an AZ first jab have been offered a different vaccine for their second jab.

Some people in the UK have been rejecting the AZ vaccine. But if this is less commonplace than in Sweden, then why should this be? And if it isn’t, why would it be under-reported?  As I strongly suspect it is – hugely so.   When listing reasons for lack of uptake of second vaccines in the UK, conspicuously absent is the factor of reluctance to have the AZ vaccine, and holding out for the possibility of mixing vaccines, as in my case, and which surely accounts for a significant proportion of people choosing to decline or delay receiving their second vaccine.

And why, unlike Sweden, are we in the UK not offered an alternative for a second jab if we are rejecting AZ? Even if this means that we are more at risk of contracting covid and of infecting others without a second jab?  And therefore there is more of a risk of covid-infected numbers and related deaths rising?  On the one hand, herd immunity as a way of limiting covid has been rejected, yet at the same time, we are held as individually responsible for the herd.  As the British Heart Foundation proclaims:  “The risks of not having the vaccine are much greater than any risks of having it, for you as well as for those around you.”

But if the government are not permitting mixing of vaccines even if this means a significant decrease in uptake of second jabs, is the government not responsible for the resultant risk of covid to the individual and the herd?

Astra Zeneca ceased to be offered at all in Norway.  In Sweden, it ceased to be used for those under the age of 65, since for over 65s, the benefits were considered to outweigh the risks.  In the UK, this argument applies to those over 40, even though people over 40, and even – in Denmark – a 60 year-old, have developed blood clots after taking Astra Zeneca.  The reason is not that you have less risk of blood clots as a side effect if you are over 40, so much as that you have more risk of becoming severely ill and dying if covid is contracted.  The fact remains, therefore, that there is still less risk of blood clots as a side effect, and death as a result, if different vaccines from AZ are offered.

In the UK, certain underlying health conditions provide criteria for administering an alternative vaccine.   However, in the case of Stephanie Dubois, 39, who suffered a “serious thrombotic episode” after being given astra Zeneca, and who died of a brain haemorrhage, there were no underlying health conditions.

Professor Paul Hunter at the University of East Anglia, says ….

“Those countries that delayed their own vaccination programmes at a time of high transmission rates by declining to use available Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines should know that their decision will have contributed to an increase in the number of avoidable deaths from covid-19,” 

However this doesn’t account for countries where other vaccines are available, such as the UK where I am aware of surgeries holding surplus of Pfizer vaccines which are not taken up, and yet cannot be administered to anyone as a second vaccine, if they have had a different first vaccine, and therefore are thrown away.

Trialling the mixing of vaccines has been in process, and results to-date seem to strongly indicate that it may in fact result in more effective protection. Even before the outcome was confirmed, Sweden and France began mixing vaccines, rather than offering their citizens only the one with a blood-clot risk.  

There is so much manipulation in relation to pressure not just to have the second jab, but to have the AZ second jab.  Manipulation implies untrustworthiness;   It refers to being pressurised – often in a very heavy-handed way – to comply with something  which one’s information, moral sense and intuition lead one to resist.  It is about wishing to overpower someone – overpower their thoughts, their arguments, their inclinations.  And manipulation tends to be for the benefit of the manipulator, not the object of manipulator’s efforts.  It can range from gentle persuasion – characterised  by a one-sided argument containing vital omissions, to a full-blown assault on one’s clarity of thought and powers of reason. It is, in fact, a form of coercion.

I am very wary of, and intensely averse to, manipulation and manipulators.  And the arguments used to pressurise the unwilling sectors of the public to take the second AZ jab are sheer manipulation.  The manipulative arguments, presented by the government, health bodies and health professionals, which I witness being accepted and parroted by intelligent, well-meaning and ethical people, are:  

Argument 1:   We are lucky to have access to a vaccine at all. 

My response:  Yes – but where vaccines are available which have less or no risk of blood clots, we should have access to these vaccines.

Argument 2:  There is more risk of severe illness/dying of covid from not having the vaccine at all, than from getting cerebral blood clots from having the AZ vaccine.

My response:  The comparison is not like-for-like.  The comparison should be between the AZ and other vaccines – which are available in the UK.  So the argument is:  there is more risk of getting/dying of cerebral blood clots from Astra Zeneca than from other vaccines.

Argument 3:  All vaccines have risks.

My response:  But since alternative vaccines are available, this particular risk is an unnecessary one which the government is requiring members of the public to take.  There are still, to our knowledge, greater risks from AZ than other vaccines.

Argument 4:  Everything has risks.  You have greater risk of dying from x (driving?  Flying?  Crossing the road?) than from cerebral blood clots resulting from Astra Zeneca – as epitomised in the following:

“A different approach is to relate the potential harms to everyday activities we all take for granted. The risk of developing the rare type of blood clot being linked to the OAZ vaccine is around one in 250,000; the risk of dying as a result is around one in a million. The annual risk of a fatal road traffic accident in the UK approaches one in 20,000 – car travel is 50 times more dangerous than being immunised with the OAZ jab.”

This is a red herring – and thus a manipulation.  It is something to throw us off track. 

Are we being invited to compound our everyday living risks by taking further unnecessary risks?  Just because I may choose to take other risks which may be greater than or equal to the risk of developing blood clots from the AZ vaccine, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I should therefore add an additional involuntary risk to my portfolio of risks – especially if that risk is unnecessary, in that other vaccines are available which don’t carry the risks of cerebral blood clots. But the vaccines which don’t carry these risks are not being offered to me – the choice being offered to me is: run the tiny and improbable risk of getting lethal cerebral blood clots, or run the greater risk of contracting covid, which, while it could be extremely nasty, has less likelihood of being lethal than the blood clots.

Apparently there is greater trust in the governments and healthcare systems in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, than in the UK. And the objections of the public are being given more consideration there. So why is the British public more compliant?

There is the issue that the infection rate is greater and faster in the UK, so rejecting AZ and hoping or waiting for a different vaccine involves more risk of contracting covid in the meantime.

The phasing out and tapering of the use of AZ by various countries – and restricting its use in the UK to specific age groups and categories confirms that it is not considered safe by the medical establishment.  It is clear that the decision to continue its use in the UK – while still restricting its use in certain categories – is a political and economic decision. If the priority was really to minimise the spread of covid, then alternative vaccines would be made available. 

In April this year, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) stated that the likelihood of getting a blood clot after receiving the AZ vaccination came to approximately 4 per million, and the risk of dying from the blood clot, one in a million.  

The following refers to a study showing that 11 “excess events” (i.e. events which would not have occurred anyway) – (blood clots) occur per 100,000 vaccinations.

Britain ordered 100 million doses of Astra Zeneca.

If we divide this by two to account for 2 doses of the same vaccine, we are talking of 50 million intended recipients of the vaccine, and I will use this figure in my calculation given that blood clots/death from blood clots is said to hardly ever happen after the second dose.  Given the statistics of one death from blood clots per million vaccinations of Astra Zeneca, the government – in insisting on the Astra Zeneca vaccine, is requiring that 5,500 of the AZ vaccinated develop blood clots.  Of these 5,500, the government is accepting – even decreeing – that 50 Astra Zeneca vaccine recipients will die of these blood clots. 

The British Heart Foundation provides different figures:  “Even if the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine is proven to be the cause of the clots, the rate of death is extremely low – about one in every 346,000 people vaccinated. “    “Extremely low” refers to some 144 deaths – unnecessary deaths –  as a result of 50 million people in the UK being (unnecessarily) offered the AZ vaccine.  

There is a Jewish saying that if you save a life, you save a whole world.  The converse applies here:  there is the opportunity to save somewhere between 50 – 144  lives by administering an alternative vaccine to the AZ.  But the Johnson government is willing to sacrifice these lives – rather than replace the AZ vaccines with an alternative.  

The overall cost of the AZ vaccines in the UK has been £217 million, whereas the Pfizer vaccines have cost the UK approximately £600 million.

And these are the sums that explain why the Johnson government has been only too willing to sacrifice 50 – 144 lives to the AZ vaccine.  But the narrative is that if we, the public, are unwilling to receive the AZ vaccine, we are endangering our families, our neighbours, everyone in our environments.  Not that the government is causing this danger by refusing alternative vaccines.

And this is a government, led by a prime minister who pulled out a dirty hat trick in order to prevent a debate and vote on the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Act, in the context of China’s ongoing genocide of its Uyghur Muslim population.  Boris Johnson has been only too clear about the extent to which he values life. And Johnson’s government is deciding that – essentially – in the UK – “the bodies will pile up”. Fewer bodies than without any vaccine, but more bodies than if an alternative vaccine is allowed.  The alternative they are offering is not to take the vaccine, to remain at risk of covid and contagion, and to have restricted freedom of movement. 

If the priority is to get the population vaccinated, then alternative vaccinations should be offered to those refusing to take AZ. How did we give this government permission to make this decision on our behalf? Do we forget that they are voted in by us to act on our behalf and in our interests? (I personally didn’t vote them in, but they are not voted in only to act in the interests of those who voted for them!) They are there through consent, and who has consented that they should be so authoritarian and curtail our freedom of choice and of movement?

In all likelihood, I will not develop blood clots in response to my second jab of AZ, but it is no comfort to know, that in that case, it will be someone else with an equally unlikely risk (since it is essentially a case of the principle of Russian roulette expanded – British roulette!) who dies of blood clots as a side effect of the AZ jab, just as unclaimed Pfizer vaccines are being thrown out.

Postscript: In Korea, a 52 year-old police officer has died after mixing vaccines: being given the Astra Zeneca for his first jab, and the Pfizer for the second.…/why-did-denmark-ditch-the…–new-study/