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Covishield May Pose Clotting Risk to Only 7 in 10 Lakh: ICMR Scientist

May 1, 2024

Dr. Raman Gangakhedkar, a leading epidemiologist and former ICMR scientist, stated that only a small fraction, about seven to eight individuals per one million, who receive the Covishield coronavirus vaccine may experience a rare side effect called thrombosis thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). He emphasized that those who have received this vaccine face negligible risk of developing this syndrome.

Gangakhedkar explained that the highest risk of experiencing the side effect occurs after the first dose of the vaccine, gradually decreasing with the second dose and reaching its lowest point after the third dose. He added that if any side effect is to manifest, it typically appears within the initial two to three months after vaccination.

UK media reports, citing court documents, reveal that AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company based in the UK, has acknowledged the rare possibility of its Covid vaccine causing blood clots as a side effect. This vaccine, named AZ Vaxzevria, is also manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and is known as Covishield.

Gangakhedkar, who represented the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) during government briefings on Covid-19, emphasized that within six months of the vaccine’s launch, thrombosis thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) was identified as a rare side effect of adenovirus vector vaccines. He stressed that there has been no new revelation or alteration in the understanding of the vaccine. Additionally, Gangakhedkar highlighted that the risk of experiencing this side effect is minimal, with only approximately 7 to 8 individuals out of every 10 lakh vaccinated being affected.

He highlighted that considering the significant positive impact of the vaccine on millions of people who are healthy and active, the associated risk remains minimal. According to The Daily Telegraph, AstraZeneca admitted in a legal document submitted to the high court in London in February, as part of a group action involving 51 claimants, that its vaccine developed in partnership with the University of Oxford to combat Covid-19, may result in thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) in “very rare cases.”

According to the expert, during emergencies like pandemics, vaccines or medications are typically approved based on a “risk and benefit analysis.” He emphasized that in this instance, the benefits far outweighed the expected risks. Gangakhedkar, renowned for simplifying complex issues, likened the rare risk associated with the vaccine to other everyday risks, such as accidents while driving or potential side effects of completing a course of medication or receiving a vitamin shot.

Gangakhedkar added that when individuals are prescribed a course of vitamin B12 injections, they are often advised to take the first shot in a hospital setting due to the potential risk of an anaphylactic reaction.

He later emphasized that anaphylaxis is a severe and life-threatening reaction that can occur within seconds or minutes after exposure to an allergen. He pointed out that because of this risk, it’s difficult to accurately estimate the benefits of the Covishield vaccine, which constitutes over 90% of Covid-19 vaccinations in the Indian population.

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