We have only one way to come out of this pandemic – vaccines. And yet many people are hesitant to take them, because of myths, anxiety, distrust of the pharmaceutical industry and actual cases of vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis.
Now scientists from UCL have a better understanding of the latter condition, rarely caused by the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.'
Vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) is basically blockage of veins and a marked reduction of platelets. It is an extremely rare condition, associated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Despite its rarity, a lot of people are worried about it enough to not even take the COVID-19 vaccine. This is obviously a huge problem if we are going to get out of this pandemic. But VITT can be deadly and therefore we need to understand it better.
Scientists now analysed the first 220 cases of definite and probable VITT in the UK, presented by 182 consultants. Another paper detailed cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) caused by VITT. CVT is the most common and the most serious manifestation of VITT. Researchers found that definite or probable VITT lead to death in about 23% of the hospitalized cases. Pretty much all the patients experienced the condition between five and 30 days after their first vaccination. Researchers didn’t see any difference between sexes or those who had prior conditions and those who didn’t. 85 % of patients were less than 60 years old, 41 % had no previous medical diagnoses. VITT is very rare – overall incidence in individuals under 50 was estimated to be 1 in 50,000.
While scientists still cannot offer an optimal treatment, they did notice that it is improving all the time in the field. Introduction of plasma exchange significantly improved patients’ chances to survive. Professor Marie Scully, lead author of the study, said: “As a new condition we are still learning about how best to diagnose and manage VITT, but as time goes on, we have been able to refine our treatment approaches and improve rates of survival and chance of recovery.”
It is very important to stress again that VITT is extremely rare. Furthermore, COVID-19 vaccines saved thousands of lives and it is the only way we have out of this pandemic. You shouldn’t be afraid of vaccination and stories of your close ones are probably almost exclusively positive.
COVID-19 is still a very new disease. And vaccines are new as well. There is a lot still that needs to be learned so that we can overcome this difficult period and emerge from it prepared for the future pandemics. Because this one is definitely not the last one.