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Autopsy into blood-clotting death likely linked to AstraZeneca vaccine

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An investigation is underway into the death of a woman from blood clotting likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There will also be a coronial inquest, but Health Minister Greg Hunt said the death would not affect the national rollout at this stage.

The 48-year-old woman from the New South Wales Central Coast had underlying health conditions but died in hospital several days after receiving the vaccine.

She received the AstraZeneca vaccine before authorities changed their advice to say people aged under 50 should instead receive the Pfizer vaccine.

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Mr Hunt said the government had asked the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to review vaccine while the government would continue to follow the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s advice.

Therapeutic Goods Administration deputy secretary John Skerritt said the woman’s case was “atypical”.

“There is a further review of the patients’ underlying mental conditions, there’s a further review of other blood tests and samples that were taken for clinical investigations,” he said.

“The New South Wales coroner has announced for all cases associated with unexpected death to do with the medicine of vaccine or accident or misadventure there will be an inquest, so more [will] come out during an inquest.

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“The autopsy, we expect, will be performed early next week and that may also reveal further information.

“If either the tests or autopsy show alternative signals coming through, the VSIG committee (the TGA’s Vaccine Safety Investigation Group) will meet again to review those results.”

Mr Hunt extended his “most profound condolences” to the woman’s family.

“Throughout the course of the pandemic we have followed the medical advice and we will continue to do that and sometimes that leads to very difficult and hard decisions,” he said.

“We will continue to follow that medical advice because, ultimately, that is the greatest protection for Australians.

“In a pandemic that daily produces challenges and heartaches and tragedies, the medical advice remains the paramount guiding light for Australia and for Australians and that underpins the vaccination program.”

In the wake of the death, Mr Hunt said the government would ask the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to continuously review all vaccines in terms of their safety and efficacy.

“That work is already conducted by the Therapeutic Goods Administration but continuous review is exactly why we have prioritised safety above all else,” Mr Hunt said.

Professor Skerritt said the TGA’s current advice was the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged over 50 outweighed the risks, and that was why Australians in that age group were encouraged to take the vaccine.

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“The only conditions that appear to put people at this increased risk is the very rare symptom of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, which is quite a rare condition, and also previous cases of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia, which are rare,” he said.

“Clotting condition or thrombosis are quite common in Australia. I think there are something like 50 diagnoses every day. People with clotting conditions are not told not to take a vaccine.”

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Mr Hunt also said: “The balance for Australians is very clearly in terms of vaccinations.”

-with agencies

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