AstraZeneca tells UK court Covishield might cause rare side effect

AstraZeneca sells the vaccine under many brand names, mainly Covishield and Vaxzevria. This is the first time the vaccine manufacturer has admitted to a side effect from the vaccine.
Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine
Oxford AstraZeneca vaccineFile Photo
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Swedish-British medicine manufacturer AstraZeneca, the company that developed the Covishield vaccination in collaboration with Oxford University, has reportedly admitted in the UK high court that its vaccine can cause a rare side effect called Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS). AstraZeneca sells the vaccine under many brand names, mainly Covishield and names Covishield and Vaxzevria. In India, it was manufactured and supplied by Serum Institute of India (SII).

AstraZeneca made the submission to the court in a lawsuit filed against the company that its vaccines caused death and serious injury to the patients. According to The Telegraph, while AstraZeneca is contesting the claims, the company has submitted a legal document stating that the vaccine “can, in very rare cases, cause TTS.” Stating that the “causal mechanism” – how TTS is caused by the vaccine – is not known, the company said, “TTS can also occur in the absence of the AZ vaccine (or any vaccine). Causation in any individual case will be a matter for expert evidence.”

TTS is a rare but serious condition associated with some vaccines, including AstraZeneca’s Covishield. A person affected by TTS would suffer from blood clots (thrombosis) and low platelet levels (thrombocytopenia). Common symptoms include severe headache, chest pain, blurred vision, difficulty in speaking, shortness of breath, etc

The first lawsuit against the company was filed in 2023 by Jamie Scott after he suffered a permanent brain injury due to a blood clot and bleeding in the brain after vaccination in 2021. Following this, as many as 51 cases have been filed with victims and relatives of the deceased seeking compensation of up to £100 million.

In 2021, many European countries, including Denmark, Norway and Iceland, temporarily suspended the rollout of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that there was no evidence of deaths linked to the vaccination. Further, Covishield played a crucial role in curbing the spread of the illness with simple storage requirements that enabled widespread availability of the vaccine.

While cases of adverse events following COVID-19 immunisation were reported in India after the vaccine rollout, there was no confirmed link between the adverse event and vaccinations. The Indian government conducted an in-depth analysis of adverse events after alerts were raised in some countries on post-vaccination “embolic and thrombotic events,” particularly with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, and found that the risk rate was very low.

“AEFI [Adverse Event Following Immunisation] data in India showed that there is a very minuscule but definitive risk of thromboembolic events. The reporting rate of these events in India is around 0.61/million doses, which is much lower than the 4 cases/million reported by the UK’s regulator, the Medical and Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA). Germany has reported ten events per million doses,” the government clarified. No potential thromboembolic events were reported after the administration of Covaxin vaccine, the government said.

Covishield was mired in controversies after it was rolled out, with one of the main issues being its cost. At a time when there were low stocks and vaccine hesitancy among people, the Serum Institute had announced a price of Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals and Rs 400 for state governments. Initially, the company sold the vaccines for Rs 150 per dose. After widespread criticism, the company reduced it to Rs 300 for states. CEO of the company, Adar Poonawalla, was provided with Y' category security by the Indian government after receiving aggressive calls from people demanding vaccines.

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