People who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are seeking help at A&E despite having only mild side-effects such as headaches, in the wake of the controversy over whether the jab causes blood clots.
Emergency medicine doctors in England told the Health Service Journal that a growing but unspecified number of people who were anxious after having the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab were coming to A&E units, some apparently after being advised to do so by a GP.
Dr Katherine Henderson, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, confirmed the trend to the Guardian.
“It’s definitely a thing. Colleagues across England are reporting this. All A&E departments are seeing an increase in the number of people reporting concerns after having the AstraZeneca vaccine. We are seeing people with mild headaches and persistent headaches but who are otherwise alright.
“Emergency departments and GPs are getting a lot of queries. I think it’s an understandable reaction by the public. I can understand why people are anxious. If they are worried they need to get advice”, Henderson said.
One A&E consultant told the HSJ: “We have seen huge numbers of AstraZeneca jab-associated headaches being sent in and, like all [emergency departments], we’re scrabbling to cobble together some guidance so as to sensibly reduce the number needing investigation. I gather some units are really, really struggling with this.”
An A&E doctor at a London hospital told the HSJ that their department was “swamped” with patients with headaches who had been sent there by their GP.
But Dr Michael Mulholland, vice-president of the Royal College of GPs, said: “GPs will only recommend patients attend A&E if they think it’s the most appropriate place for them to go to get the care they need.”
The apparent surge of cases follows the decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on Wednesday to recommend that under-30s had a different jab to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because of the risk of “an extremely rare adverse event of concurrent thrombosis (blood clots) and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)” linked to it. Among the 20m shots administered in the UK so far, 79 people have developed one of these issues after having that vaccine, of whom 19 have died, including three who were under-30, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said.
Asked about the jab-related attendance at A&E, an NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS will continue to offer a vaccine that is right for the individual. As the MHRA and JCVI have said, serious side-effects are extremely rare and Public Health England has issued updated advice on when individuals should seek urgent medical advice.”
Meanwhile, GP-led vaccination sites across England will receive no new supplies of vaccine either next week or the week after to administer first doses because of what Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s primary care medical director, called “reduced supply over the coming weeks”. That is part of an NHS strategy to concentrate on giving as many people as possible this month their second dose.
Supply problems mean the rollout of the vaccine to the under-50s has been delayed until May, when supply is expected to be more reliable.