With new findings from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) safety committee and the WHO Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety (GACVS) that there exists possible link of AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots and low blood platelets, the Solomon Islands COVID-19 vaccine Technical Working Group (TWG) had held an urgent meeting to review the report together with other relevant available data.
Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) leads the TWG and members comprised of the Ministry’s health advisors, WHO, and UNCIEF health and immunization experts.
Following the meeting, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) wish to inform the public that roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine will continue.
The decision has been reached based on the following considerations.
Firstly, a causal relationship between the vaccine and the occurrence of blood clots with low platelets is considered plausible but is not confirmed. EMA concluded that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effect of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca although causality has not been proven and that EMA has not changed its recommendation for the use of the vaccine.
Secondly, the report does not advise pausing or stopping the roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine, rather for health care professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within 4 to 20 days of vaccination. Additionally that disproportionately cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within 2 weeks of vaccination.
Thirdly and again as highlighted by the report, that COVID-19 is associated with a risk of hospitalization and death. The reported combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is very rare and the overall benefits of the vaccines in preventing COVID-19 far outweighs the risks of side effects.
The vaccine technical working group had also assessed and discussed the report from the Australian National Centre for Immunization Research and Surveillance. The report showed estimated number of clotting disorders that potentially might occur in the Pacific Island Countries if all adults received the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on estimated adult population in each country and the incidence of these events in Europe and Australia.
In the case of Solomon Islands if all adult population are vaccinated, there is a very rare chance that the blood clot disorder might occur, and estimated that possibly only 1 or 2 cases might occur in adults against the entire adult population. Thus, it is extremely unlikely for the blood clot side effect to occur even if all adult population in Solomon Islands received the AstraZeneca vaccine dose.
Globally only 86 including 18 fatalities have been documented from almost 200 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine administered and this demonstrates there is a very rare association with blood clot combined with low platelets.
India, manufacturer and supplier of the AstraZeneca vaccine, continues to roll out the vaccine as authorities upon reviewing available data found that there is nothing to suggest a causal relationship between vaccine and blood clots.
About 115 countries using the AstraZeneca vaccines globally only a handful have made some modifications with the vast majority continuing with normal vaccination in line with WHO recommendations.
Nevertheless, the Ministry of Health is taking recommendations from the EMA and GACVS very seriously and thus will move to include in public messaging, updating of information sheet for doctors and people coming to receive immunization, conduct trainings for staff based on these updated information and ensure appropriate management protocols for such adverse events are in place.
An independent committee for Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) Committee comprising of health experts and clinicians who are not part of the vaccine roll out is being put together. Their primary task will be to review all AEFI cases and to make recommendations and advice to the Ministry of Health regarding the administration and roll out of the COVID-19 vaccines in Solomon Islands with respect to documenting and managing AEFI cases.
Ministry will continue to provide further updates in this regard and monitor the situation closely.
With this, the Ministry would like to encourage the public to come forward when your turn comes for vaccination as the benefit of all of us getting vaccinated far outweighs the possible risks, thus let all work together against this COVID-19 global pandemic.
Public are also urge to not rely on information from unreliable and non-reputable sources as they can be misleading with the potential of jeopardizing the good work of vaccine roll out that is underway which is critical for the protection of the country from COVID-19.