By C.E. Windsor 30/04/2021
RDA now has a team of writers who will be helping to inform you and the community on current and impactful news.
AusVaxSafety is a self-proclaimed world-leading vaccine safety monitoring system. The purpose of which is to gather and display weekly updates of vaccination feedback Australia wide, including both the Comirnaty BNT162b2 (mRNA), sponsored by Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd and AstraZeneca Covid 19 Vaccines. The stated goal of AusVaxSafety is to maximise ‘safety confidence’ in the National Immunisation Program in the eyes of both healthcare providers and the public. The detection of adverse events in relation to immunisation can be viewed on their website https://www.ausvaxsafety.org.au/safety-data/covid-19-vaccines.
AusVaxSafety is headed by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. This information is sourced via Vaxtracker, SmartVax and the Victorian Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine Management System and is based on online health surveys sent to individuals on day three following a vaccination to record feedback regarding possible reactions.
Firstly, it is necessary to create some context for the information we find in this government funded website regarding the Covid 19 vaccination and any recorded reactions. To do this we first need to understand how people generally respond to the existing seasonal influenza vaccines. This information is freely available on the same website. As of the 22nd of April 2021, 94.1% of all flu vaccine recipients reported zero adverse events. To be clear this leaves an adverse event percentage of only 5.9%.
When analysing Covid 19 vaccine reactions this website gives us the following information. Of the 406,246 people surveyed, 69.1% of people responded (280,859), meaning that 30% of vaccine recipients did not respond to the survey at all. Of the 280,859 respondents across both vaccines 54% reported experiencing an adverse event. An adverse event can include pain at injection sight, fever, chills, headache, and body aches, however 1.4% of people sought medical attention from a doctor or at a hospital.
The website further breaks down these reactions into three categories. Pfizer dose one and two and AstraZeneca dose one. Given that the websites objective is to promote confidence in the safety of vaccines, it is not surprising that the graphics are designed to positively highlight the figures relating to no adverse events, possibly hoping that readers do not look any further. However, for those who are seeking further information there is a pie chart illustrating both the non-adverse and adverse events and a breakdown of these. The results from the first Pfizer dose show that 62.3% of participants reported no adverse events, leaving 37.7% reporting adverse events. The second Pfizer dose results show the adverse event figure climbed to 59.8% of participants with 1.9% seeking doctor’s advice or emergency treatment.
AstraZeneca’s adverse reaction figures are higher than Pfizer’s following dose one which indicates that 63.2% of participants reported adverse events. The website offers a possible explanation for this increased rate of medical attention suggesting that it is likely due to the publics fear of thrombosis thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), and further states that no cases of TTS have been reported to AusVaxSafety, which should raise an eyebrow.
Interestingly the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centres website (funded by the Victorian government) https://mvec.mcri.edu.au/references/thrombosis-with-thrombocytopenia-syndrome/ provides additional yet conflicting information regarding Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). TTS is also known as Vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) and is defined as a new syndrome. Whilst rare, TTS has been reported in people who received the Covid 19 AstraZeneca vaccination in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, and Australia at a rate of approximately 1 in every 250,000 doses. This begs the question, why haven’t these serious events been reported on the AusVaxSafety website?
A third and critical point to note is that the health surveys are administered by AusVaxSafety on day three following a vaccination. Yet information provided on the Melbourne Vaccine Education centres website clearly states that mild adverse reactions usually occur within the first 24-48 hours, but the symptoms of TTS/VIPIT do not occur until day 4 and may appear anywhere up to 20 days following vaccination. Whilst useful to a point, this renders the information provided to us by AusVaxSafety, courtesy of the government, as incomplete and inaccurate, failing to record potentially catastrophic events occurring after day three of their survey period.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the story of Covid-19. A continuation of convoluted information released by the government, perpetuated by the media, leading to increasing confusion for the public.
For anyone seeking the truth, the good news is correct information is available to all of us to see regarding the Covid-19 virus and vaccine however it is necessary to seek this information across more than one source. Remember the vaccine is voluntary. The single most important thing you can do as an individual to help yourself and those you care about is to be informed, do not blindly follow what you are told to do by the television. Another source of information can be found online via www.health.gov.au/covid19-vaccines or go to your local medical centre and ask them to print you a copy of the following four key documents in relation to getting the Covid-19 vaccination. These are “Preparing for your Covid-19 vaccination, Information on Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca, After your Covid-19 vaccination” and the “consent form for Covid-19 vaccination”. These documents alone are good examples of material that is readily available to us containing valuable information when weighing up the pros and cons of the Covid 19 vaccination.
As at the time of writing this article, the current advice is that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not recommended for people under the age of 50 in Australia. These documents declare that whilst they believe those who get the vaccine are 62-70% less likely to get Covid-19, they cannot say how it will affect people over the age of 65 years, as very few people over this age were included in the trial, asserting that “more data on the effectiveness of this vaccine in older adults is expected to be available soon”. The information booklet also recommends people with immunocompromise conditions should get the vaccine, even though the vaccine has not been tested on this group of people. It also says it is possible to still get sick from Covid-19 after vaccination and that they do not know how long the protection will last. Further it states that they do not know how effective the vaccines are at preventing the spread of Covid-19 so you could still transmit it to others which is why you will still need to social distance, wash hands, wear face masks and attend Covid-19 testing and or quarantine as required.
With the government and media collectively pushing the safety and necessity of vaccines for Covid-19, it has never been more important to play our role in society as good citizens by making informed decisions. Thankfully, there is a plethora of information available to us if we are only prepared to open our eyes.