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Risk of blood clots from contraceptive pill ‘far greater’ than Oxford vaccine

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The incidence rate for women taking the contraceptive pill is still very low (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Women are at ‘far greater’ risk of developing blood clots from taking the contraceptive pill than from the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, a leading vaccine expert has said.

Yesterday UK regulators recommended that under-30s should be given the Pfizer or Moderna jabs instead.

The Oxford vaccine has been linked to 79 cases of blood clots and 19 deaths out of the 20million people who have been given the jab across the UK.

But Professor Adam Finn, of the the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has stressed that the the benefits of people getting the vaccine overwhelmingly outweigh the risks.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘The contraceptive pill is a medicine that women take not because they are ill but as a choice in terms of how they are living their lives.

‘The risks of thrombosis that come with taking the pill are very much higher than the risks that we were just seeing on those slides [on very rare blood clots from the Oxford jab].

‘Every year, a woman runs a risk approaching one in a hundred of getting some kind of thrombosis and some of those thromboses are severe and even life threatening as well.

 

Doctor says clot risk from the pill is higher

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‘So, that’s a risk that many women take, and accept quite willingly all the time, and it’s a far greater risk in fact than the risk we are seeing with this important vaccine that has the potential to get us all out of this dilemma.’

Despite the risk being higher, the chances of developing blood clots from taking the pill are still very small.

The estimated incidence rate is about five per 10,000 women per year – one in 2,000 or 0.05% – according to an article last year in the Lancet medical journal.

In comparison, chief executive of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency Dr June Raine said the risk posed by the Oxford vaccine is about four in a million.

She added: ‘This works out at a risk of one in 250,000, or 0.0004%.’

Chair of the European Medicines Agency’s safety committee Dr Sabine Straus added: ‘If you state the reporting rate is approximately one in 100,000 or even a little bit higher, that would reflect the risk”.

An estimated one in 2,000 users develop blood clots, according to the Lancet journal (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Guidance from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) says the risk of someone developing blood clots by using combined hormonal contraception (CHC) is ‘much smaller than the risk of having a blood clot if they were pregnant’.

It says people who are very ill with Covid-19 have an increased risk of blood clots but that it is unclear the danger posed to people with mild or asymptomatic cases.

The FSRH added: ‘It is really important that people do not stop their CHC suddenly because they are worried about blood clots – that would put them at risk of unplanned pregnancy.

‘Instead, if someone has a mild COVID-19 infection, they could ask their doctor for the safer progestogen-only pill to use until they are completely well again.’

The FSRH says the The progestogen-only pill, the implant, the injection and intrauterine contraceptives do not increase risk of a blood clot.

Responding to concerns over the risk posed by the Oxford vaccine, JCVI deputy chairman Professor Anthony Harnden said: ‘These are extremely rare events – much, much more rare than, for instance, clots due to common drugs that we prescribe such as the contraceptive pill; much rarer than clots during pregnancy; much, much rarer than clots due to Covid itself.’

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We still feel this is a safe and effective vaccine where the benefits far outweigh the risks for the majority of people. In many ways, it’s better to know the known than the unknown, so I would encourage anybody who’s been offered either their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and certainly their second dose, when there’s been no cases for second doses, to receive it when offered.’

Professor Harnden said ‘the vaccination programme is going full steam ahead’ and ‘everybody should remain confident in it’.

Hancock says Oxford jab is 'safe for all ages'

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He added: ‘What we’re seeing is a very, very rare, extremely rare safety signal which is coming out of the regulators.’

As younger age groups are less at risk of developing severe illness from Covid, Professor Harnden said the JCVI felt ‘more comfortable’ if they were offered an alternative vaccine for now.

Looking at the average Covid infection rate, he said you would have to vaccinate about 116,000 under-30s to prevent one death.

He added: ‘Now, given that we don’t understand the incidence of this side effect, and given that it possibly is more common in younger age groups, we felt that the figures may land somewhere in that sort of region and therefore the risk/benefit of the vaccine just became more equivalent, and therefore we thought it’d be much more important to be cautious.’

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