THE sister of a solicitor who died of a blood clot less than three weeks after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine has said that people should still take the jab to “keep saving lives”.
Nick Astles, 59, died in hospital on Easter Sunday after suffering a blood clot on the brain.
The married solicitor from Warrington, Cheshire, was the first named person believed to have died from the side-effect linked to the vaccine, had received his first dose on 17 March and suffered headaches and loss of vision for 10 days before his death.
Mr Astles’ sister Dr Alison Astles said although his family was “furious”, it encouraged people to keep getting the Oxford vaccine because it meant that “fewer people will die”.
She said her brother had been “extraordinarily unlucky”.
It comes after the UK’s medicines regulator said under-30s should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine after a very low risk of blood clots was discovered.
The government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said that healthy adults aged between 18 and 29, who have no underlying health conditions or risks from coronavirus, should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine when vaccines are rolled out to their age group.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there had been 79 cases of a blood clot condition known as thrombocytopenia. Among these cases – all of which occurred after the first dose of the vaccine – 19 people have died. Three were under 30 The chance of dying from a blood clot after having the AZ jab in the UK was put at about one in one million as there has been 20m vaccinations.
It is argued that the balance of risk remains in favour of taking the Oxford vaccine for the majority of the population: 20 million doses have been administered across the UK, with an estimated 6,000 lives saved, based on the average death rate from Covid. This would make the risk of a rare clot around one in 250,000.
Dr Astles, the subject lead for pharmacy at the University of Huddersfield called on people to continue going for the AstraZeneca jab despite her brother’s death.
She told The Telegraph: “Despite what has happened to our family, we strongly believe that everyone should go for their first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Emotionally we are completely and utterly furious. We are suffering. But there’s nothing in our minds to be really furious about. My brother was just extraordinarily unlucky.
“If we all have the vaccine, a few of us might have a blood clot, but the evidence is that fewer people will die.
“We trust the process, we trust the regulator, and despite what has happened to our family, we don’t want people to be scared off. That’s the message we want to get across.”
Dr Astles said her brother began feeling ill about a week after having his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 17.
Mr Astles was fit and healthy with no history of blood clotting issues, but developed from headaches and loss of vision in his right eye.
Dr Astles added: “What appears to have happened is the vaccine has caused his immune system to turn against his body.
“And his body has reacted by forming a clot which then resulted in a subsequent bleed in his brain.”
She called on people who get the AZ jab and develop headaches to get it checked out and urged pharmacists to be vigilant.
Campaigners and politicians have compared the blood clot risk posed by the jab to that associated with taking the contraceptive pill.
Dr Peter Arlett, head of data analytics at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the side-effect is seen in around four in 10,000 women who take the pill over the course of a year.
The decision to offer alternative vaccines to under-30s was taken because young people have a far lower risk of hospitalisation and death from Covid-19.
June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said: “Based on the current evidence, the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca against Covid-19 and its associated risks, hospitalisation and death, continues to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people. The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people, but it is more finely balanced for the younger people.”
Meanwhile, at least four families of people who died after having the Covid vaccine are taking advice on potential legal action.
Peter Todd, a solicitor at Scott-Moncrieff, said four families had contacted him.