The head of Mater Dei’s Department of Infection Control has stressed that the benefit and protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh any potential side effects they may have.
During a press conference this morning, Professor Michael Borg addressed concerns about side-effects from COVID-19 vaccines, particularly the AstraZeneca vaccine which the European Medicines Authority (EMA) said this week should have rare cases of blood clots listed as one of its side-effects.
It however did not change its guidance on who should receive the vaccine, noting that the benefits far outweighed the risks, nonetheless.
Borg started by noting that not every medical event that takes place after someone is vaccinated was necessarily a result of the vaccine.
He explained that the rate of occurrence of deep vein thrombosis in Malta was that of roughly 80 cases for every 100,000 individuals, amounting to roughly six cases a week nationally. As a result, he said that it was perfectly plausible that someone who received the vaccine also experienced a thrombosis event.
The EMA, he said, was clear that there was no link between the vaccine and pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis.
Turning to the rare blood clotting events, some of which were reported in the media, Borg said that these were “totally different”.
“In the brain, we have sinuses – like small reservoirs – that collect blood from the brain and pump it to the heart. There have been cases of thrombosis in these sinuses that were associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine by the EMA. There were even rarer instances where this type of thrombosis was detected in the intestines,” Borg said.
“These are very rare cases. For example in the UK, they have vaccinated over 20 million people and they have an excellent notification system, and they’ve found 79 cases, of which 19 eventually died. The rate is less than one in a million…but they also found that through those 20 million vaccinations, 6,000 deaths were avoided.”
He said that any risks associated with the vaccine were far outweighed by the effects of the virus, including death as well as long-term side effects.
“It is essential that we realise that there are always going to be risks in life. If you leave the house and get into a car, there is a risk. In Malta 2.7 in every 100,000 people die from traffic accidents every year…it is a risk, but the advantages of transport are enormous because it allows us to live a normal life. The vaccine is the same, when you weigh the benefits of all these vaccines against the very small – one in a million – risk of the vaccine, there is no doubt that the vaccine is very important.”
He urged all those eligible for the vaccine to take it in order to protect themselves and those around them.
Borg also urged people having major symptoms, such as a lack of vision, to contact the health department.
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