German scientists claim they have discovered why some coronavirus vaccines cause blood clots — and say jabs could be tweaked to stop the complication.
Two vaccines, one manufactured by Oxford-AstraZeneca and the other by Johnson & Johnson, have been linked to rare clotting disorders, particularly among women under the age of 50.
AstraZeneca’s has been linked to 309 clots and 56 deaths in the UK out of 33million shots. The J&J single-dose vaccine has been linked to 28 cases in the US out of more than 10.4million shots.
The clots — which can occur in the brain — are happening alongside abnormally low platelet levels, known as thrombocytopenia.
Now, researchers at Goethe-University of Frankfurt and Ulm University, in Helmholtz, say the problem lies in the adenovirus vector — a common cold virus used so both vaccines can enter the body.
They say the vaccines can be adapted to prevent the rare side effect from occurring, reported the Financial Times.
It comes after 18-year-old student Ellie Peacock, who suffered clots after receiving AstraZeneca’s jab in Australia, yesterday urged recipients to be aware and monitor any potential side effects.
Following her first dose on March 31, a week before the Government advised under-50s against receiving the jab, she suffered severe headaches and chest pains and was diagnosed with pneumonia before doctors finally discovered three blood clots in her lungs two months after the jab.
Mother-of-two Lauren Briggs, from Connah’s Quay, North Wales, was nearly killed by a ‘one in a million’ blood clot from her AstraZeneca Covid vaccine — but she urged others to keep getting the jabs.
Ms Briggs, 32, suffered a range of symptoms within days of getting her jab, starting with a ‘horrendous headache’ before experiencing pain in her lower body that felt like her leg was ‘exploding’.
Germans scientists say they have figured out why the Covid vaccines from AstraZeneca (left) and Johnson & Johnson (right) are linked to rare blood clots. In a new pre-print, the team says the problem is with the adenovirus vector, a common cold virus used to get the body to induce an immune response
Yesterday 18-year-old nursing student Ellie Peacock, who suffered blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca jab, issued a warning to other Australians getting the vaccine, urging them to monitor for side effects
Lauren Briggs, from Connah’s Quay, North Wales (left), is lucky to be alive after suffering a ‘horrendous headache’ within days of getting her jab (right)
Ellie Peacock shared photos of her hospital stay over TikTok, urging others to monitor for side effects after receiving the Covid-19 vaccin
Scientists believe that in some people, the immune system sees the vaccine as a threat and over-produces antibodies to fight it. These lead to the formation of clumps in the blood, which can become deadly if the clots move towards vital organs and cut off supply.
The complication spooked some countries into turning their backs on AstraZeneca’s jab, with Denmark opting against using it in April. Norway and Austria later followed suit.
Other countries have restricted its use to older adults. UK health chiefs say under-40s should be offered other jabs because the risk of blood clots doesn’t clearly outweigh the benefits.
The decision was made because cases of Covid were plummeting, meaning the risk of catching the disease was tiny. On top of that, younger adults face little risk of falling seriously ill with Covid.
For older people who are at a genuine risk of dying if they catch Covid, the benefits of protection from the virus clearly outweigh any negative side effects, regulators say. The absolute risk of developing clots is around one in 100,000.
Some countries’ decision to stop using the jab and criticisms of it sparked a political row in Europe, with EU leaders both demanding more supplies of the vaccine and at the same time claiming it didn’t work and was dangerous.
German ministers claimed the jab didn’t work at all old in people and France’s Emmanuel Macron called it ‘quasi-effective’, despite real-world data having proven that it works.
Similar fears later emerged about the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson after recipients in the US developed clots. That jab has been age-restricted in Europe, too.
The reason both have been linked to clotting is thought to be that they work in the same way – attaching part of the coronavirus to a damaged common cold bug called an adenovirus.
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine works in the same way but there have not yet been reports of that jab causing blood clots.
Dr Rolf Marschalek, a biochemistry professor at Goethe University in Germany, told the Financial Times clots may be caused by the way vaccine enters the body.
The paper says the problem is ‘completely absent’ in mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
Dr Marschalek suggests that the vaccine is delivered to the nucleus of the cell – a blob of DNA in the middle – rather than to the fluid around it that acts as a protein factory.
Bits of coronavirus proteins that get inside the nucleus can break up and the unusual fragments then get expelled out into the bloodstream, where they can trigger clotting in a tiny number of people, Dr Marschalek said.
The first clots to alarm people were ones appearing in veins near the brains of younger adults in a condition called CSVT (cerebral sinus venous thrombosis).
Since that, however, people have developed clots in other parts of their bodies and they are usually linked to low numbers of platelets, which is unusual because platelets are usually used by the immune system to build the clots.
In most cases people recover fully and the blockages are generally easy to treat if spotted early, but they can trigger strokes or heart or lung problems if unnoticed.
Dr Marschalek and colleagues think that the problem could be stopped if the genetic material in the vaccines is edited so that it doesn’t break up inside the cell nucleus.
This could be done in the labs producing the jabs, he said, and Johnson & Johnson has already approached the team for advice on how it can change its own vaccine – the study does not outline how this would be done.
‘With the data we have in our hands we can tell the companies how to mutate these sequences, coding for the spike protein in a way that prevents unintended splice reactions,’ Dr Marschalek told the FT.
Daily infections (3,180) spiked by 18 per cent compared to last Wednesday’s figure, reaching their highest level since April 12 (3,568). But deaths remained in single figures, with nine fatalities today up slightly on the three posted last Wednesday
Britain’s mammoth vaccine drive continued at full steam ahead, with 387,987 top-up jabs dished out across the country yesterday. It takes the UK’s number of fully vaccinated adults to more than 23.6million
British woman, 39, dies in Cyprus in ‘blood clotting incident’ days after receiving AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
A 39-year-old British woman has died in a Cypriot hospital after a blood clotting incident after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
Charalambos Charilaou, the spokesperson for the state health services, said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would investigate the death.
The woman, treated at Nicosia General Hospital’s intensive care unit, received the first dose of the vaccine on May 6 in the resort town of Paphos on the western coast of the Mediterranean island.
The woman, who was not named, suffered symptoms days later and died over the weekend.
Cyprus health authorities have opened an investigation to see if the ‘serious thrombotic episode’ was linked to the AstraZeneca jab.
Cypriot authorities are investigating another four other cases of ‘mild’ blood clotting incidents – three of which occurred after an AstraZeneca shot and one after a Pfizer jab – are also being investigated by Cyprus.
Some countries have restricted or dropped AstraZeneca shots from national vaccine campaigns over very rare blood clots, though the EMA says the benefits outweigh the risks.
AstraZeneca is the backbone of the vaccination rollout in Cyprus, where family doctors also allowed to administer the jab to anybody aged over 20.
One case of blood clotting following the AstraZeneca jab was in a 39-year-old British woman who died in a hospital in Cyprus.
She had received the first dose of the vaccine on May 6 in the resort town of Paphos on the western coast of the Mediterranean island.
The woman, who was not named, suffered symptoms days later – they can include headache and fainting or seizures – and died over the weekend.
Cyprus health authorities opened an investigation to see if the ‘serious thrombotic episode’ was linked to the AstraZeneca jab.
In Europe, some countries have stopped using AstraZeneca’s jab completely, while others, including Britain, recommend that younger women get a different vaccine.
It comes after data showed a growing number of people are suffering from blood clotting disorders after their second dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, when scientists originally noticed most cases were linked to the first.
The UK’s medical regulator found 15 cases in people given their booster dose by May 12, up from six at the start of the month.
So far more than 9million Britons have been given two doses of AstraZeneca’s jab, meaning the extremely rare clots are occurring in around one in 600,000 people.
Scientists told MailOnline it was ‘disappointing’ the extremely rare complication was becoming more frequent in double-jabbed patients.
The clots are happening alongside abnormally low platelet levels, a condition known as thrombocytopenia.
But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said symptoms were ‘milder’ and less frequent than after the first dose.
As of May 12, the MHRA had spotted 294 cases of the clots in Britons given an initial injection, affecting about one in 80,000.
The conditions were found to be occurring more frequently in young people, which has led to the British jab being restricted for use in under-40s.
Under-21s may be more likely to catch the Indian Covid variant, Professor Lockdown warns
Under-21s may be more likely to catch the Indian Covid variant, one of the Government’s top scientific advisers warned today.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson said there was a ‘hint’ in the data that younger people are more vulnerable to getting infected with the mutant strain.
The SAGE epidemiologist, who offered no evidence to back his claim, claimed it was ‘impossible’ to tell whether it was a biological effect of the virus evolving. He admitted it was possible the figures were skewed by the ‘seeding of infection’ in schools and colleges.
But another scientist discussing the threat of the Indian variant said reports of it spreading quicker in the young should be taken ‘seriously because that’s the first sign that you have a problem’.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a microbiologist at Cambridge University, said: ‘Often if you wait too long for the right data it’s too late.’ He spoke alongside Professor Lockdown at a German media briefing today.
Discussing the threat of the Indian variant to hopes of returning to normality next month, Professor Ferguson said said there was signs it was affecting children more than other strains.
He told a German briefing for science journalists: ‘There’s a hint in the data that under-21s are slightly more likely to be infected with this variant compared with other variants in recent weeks in the UK.
‘Whether it reflects a change in the biology or reflects what’s called founder effects and the context — the people who came into the country with the virus and then seeding of infection in certain schools and colleges — that’s impossible to resolve at the moment.’
But Professor Ferguson provided no figures to back up his claim and stressed there was no suggestion it causes more severe illness in youngsters.
Addressing the same topic, Professor Gupta said: ‘I do think we should take these reports [of it spreading more quickly in the young] seriously because that’s the first sign that you have a problem.
‘Often if you wait too long for the right data it’s too late. Hopefully the countries where they’re seeing this will be studying it in a kind of rigorous way so that we can get that information.’