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“The quicker people get, it the better,” says Clare GP

GP says risks of getting a blood clot from a vaccine are very low, as date announced for opening of mass vaccination clinic in Ennis.

THE GOVERNMENT must reiterate the benefits of vaccinating most of the population against Covid-19 to address “vaccine hesitancy” in the wake of the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to a local general practitioner.

Dr Michael Harty has warned if most of the population isn’t vaccinated, Ireland is leaving itself open to the possibility of a fourth wave, which would delay the reopening of society that in turn would have very negative social and health implications.

“The quicker people get vaccinated the better. It is the only way out of this pandemic because Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere and new variants are developing all over the world.

“No vaccination is without rare events but from a population point of view if we want to get out of this pandemic we may have to accept this small risk.

“Vaccine hesitancy is developing now in relation to Covid-19 vaccination. There is huge anxiety out there now as every news and radio programme is talking about the problems with vaccines.

“This makes it more difficult for people to differentiate between what is a very low risk of getting a rare blood clot and a substantial risk of getting Covid-19.”

Councillor Pat Daly told a HSE briefing for Clare County Council on Monday that Clare patients with heart problems, blood pressure and strokes were “afraid of their lives” to take the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the risk of getting a blood clot.

He said there should be a “plan B” or a different vaccine provided for this particular cohort of patients, having been contacted by several patients with genuine concerns
UL Hospitals’ Group chief clinical director, Professor Brian Lenehan said these patients should discuss their concerns with their own family doctor or consultant. It was confirmed at this briefing the mass vaccination clinic in Treacy’s West County Hotel, Ennis is scheduled to open on April 26.

Councillor Daly’s appeal came before 1,200 patients in cohort four had their appointments for vaccination clinics in the Radisson Blue Hotel, Meelick cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, the HSE has offered appointments to 400 people in this clinic on this Thursday, April 15.

Dr Harty said the risk of someone dying for this rare blood clot is about one in a million patients, while the incidence is in the region of one in 250,000.

While blood clots do happen, Dr Harty stressed they are rare and noted his practice has recorded two in the last 35 years.

“Getting a blood clot is a very rare event, which can happen independently of vaccination.

“It is slightly more common in rare cases with vaccination, but the consequences of getting Covid-19 and ending up in hospital are so horrendous, you have to balance this small risk of a clot with a serious risk of getting the virus.

“The risk of getting complications from Covid-19 for vulnerable patients far outweigh the very rare risk of blood clotting. People have to make up their own minds and you can’t force people to take a vaccine.”

He confirmed his practice was receiving a lot of phone calls from people wondering what vaccine they will receive and when it will be administered.

He stressed that vulnerable patients with underlying conditions who are at high risk of contracting Covid-19 should be vaccinated.

He explained there is no vaccine that hasn’t some risk of a side effect.

The Kilmihil GP pointed out general practitioners were given the task of vaccinating the over 70s, which is limited by the availability of the Pfizer vaccine, albeit this has been substantially addressed.

Everyone in his practice over the age of 80 has received two doses and those aged 75 and over have got one dose and in some cases two doses.

Next Monday, he is expecting a delivery, which will allow him to administer the first dose to those over 70 and a second dose to others.

With up to half of all vaccines in the country being delivered through general practice, he observed the vaccination programme has been successfully rolled out, notwithstanding it would be completed quicker if supply wasn’t limited.

Family doctors have also been asked to identify vulnerable patients in their practice who have cancer or a chronic disease so they can be prioritised for vaccination with the AstraZenaca vaccine who are in 60-69 age bracket.

Dr Harty said family doctors will be following all existing and new advice from NIAC concerning administering the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Dr Michael Kelleher told The Clare Champion his practice hadn’t received any phone calls earlier this week from patients expressing concern about the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Lahinch-based GP explained the AstraZeneca issue hasn’t arisen for most practices yet who had administered the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and he expects more clarity on any new amendments to the vaccine rollout to be given over the coming days.

He pointed out the risk associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine is very low and a lot less than the risk of contracting the virus.

Acknowledging the importance of providing clear and simple guidance for any new changes to the vaccination programme, he said there wasn’t much point in people clogging up phone lines asking questions that were answered in the media.

The HSE has written to hospital groups and Community Healthcare Organisations to advise that all Astra Zeneca Covid-19 Vaccination Clinics planned for Tuesday and Wednesday should be cancelled following receipt of updated guidance received from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, and the Department of Health, yesterday evening.

It has cancelled all AstraZeneca clinics, except those arranged for certain people over the age of 60, for the remainder of this week as its works to reconfigure its rollout plans to take in to account the latest NIAC guidance.

Patients will be offered an alternative appointment as soon as possible.

More than 400 who are in the 60-69 age bracket are now being offered a vaccination appointment this Thursday at the Radisson Blu Hotel. This is in line with the updated guidance from NIAC.
The HSE encourages this group of patients to respond to the text notification and to attend for their appointment on Thursday.

Some clinics will be in a position to proceed with the vaccination of patients over the age of 60 this week, in line with the new guidance, and in these cases individuals will be contacted directly by their vaccination centre to arrange their appointment.

Anybody who is due to attend an Astra Zeneca clinic, and who is not contacted directly in advance, is therefore advised not to attend.

Dan Danaher

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