Painful lessons of the Covid vaccines

Parents take their children to the Covid-19 vaccination centre in Kuala Lumpur for their shots during the pandemic in February 2022. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 7, 2024.

THE world was warned three years ago about the harm AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines caused. The uproar and remorse today is a tad too late.

Then health minister Khairy Jamaluddin threatened “to make life difficult” for those who refused to be vaccinated.

Three years post-pandemic, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca finds itself facing lawsuits amounting to millions of dollars over the harm its vaccines have caused.

The company now admits its Covishield causes rare side effects, including blood clots and a low platelet count.

Covid-19 vaccine-makers had received legal indemnity protecting them from being sued over injections produced in record time. Governments, Malaysia included, agreed to indemnity for these companies.

Covishield, developed by the British-Swedish AstraZeneca in collaboration with Oxford University was widely administered in more than 150 countries, including Britain and India.

Research later showed that Covishield could cause blood clots.

A class action lawsuit filed in the United Kingdom claims the vaccine led to deaths and severe injuries. It seeks £100 (RM555) million in damages for about 50 victims.

One of the complainants alleges the vaccine led to a permanent brain injury after he developed a blood clot, leaving him jobless.

AstraZeneca, while contesting the claims, admitted for the first time in a court document that the vaccine could “in very rare cases, cause TTS”, or thrombosis thrombocytopenia, which is characterised by blood clots and a low blood platelet count.

“The causal mechanism is not known,” the company said in the court documents in February according to The Telegraph.

It was only last year that AstraZeneca said it would “not accept that TTS is caused by the vaccine at a generic level”.

The World Health Organisation has also admitted that Covishield could have life-threatening side effects.

“A very rare adverse event called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, involving unusual and severe blood clotting events associated with low platelet counts, has been reported after vaccination with this vaccine,” it said.

Yet it continues to promote the shots. 

“In countries with ongoing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, the benefit of vaccination in protecting against Covid-19 far outweighs the risks,” WHO said.

According to the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences, “very rare” side effects are reported in less than 1 in 10,000 cases.

Did Malaysia ignore warning signs?

In 2021, the European Medicines Agency safety committee agreed that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects AstraZeneca vaccines.

This news prompted several countries in the European Union to suspend use of AstraZeneca shots.

So how did Malaysia’s then health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah end up assuring Malaysians that all was good with the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Dr Noor Hisham was quoted in media reports as saying that the number of blood clot cases vis-a-vis AstraZeneca vaccine is rare.

“According to Health Ministry Clinical Research Institute director Dr Kalaiarasu (Peariasamy), blood clot cases are very rare and to date there is no scientific evidence to link blood clot cases with the (AstraZeneca) vaccine.

“There have been 168 cases reported worldwide after more than 21 million people received the AstraZeneca jab,” he wrote on Facebook.

Dr Noor Hisham said the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency had approved the conditional registration of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Only Denmark has stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine, while 44 out of 99 countries that had approved the vaccine for emergency usage continued using it with conditions.

“Malaysia will use it for senior citizens aged 60 and above, along with Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines. This is based on clinical data from other countries.”

Then health minister Dr Adham Baba also said the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and effective.

The question for both is: why did Malaysia not halt use of AstraZeneca vaccines given the clotting issues?

Why did they not consult counterparts abroad or heed WHO’s caveat and suspend use of AstraZeneca jabs? Who greenlighted use of this vaccine that has been rejected by other countries?

Malaysia in 2020 signed a deal to procure 6.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The country received its first 268,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses in April 2021.

Khairy in May 2021 said there was overwhelming public interest in the shots as all 260,000 available appointments for vaccination were snapped up in less than four hours

You’re sorry now?

What now? Will Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government take the sudden death phenomenon in Malaysia seriously? Will the swelling in cancer cases among the vaccinated prompt investigations?

What about the cases of cardiac arrests and myocarditis? Will the deaths of youngsters who had been jabbed be casually dismissed?

AstraZeneca’s confession that its vaccines are harmful has caused an uproar in countries like India. Is Malaysia taking a relaxed attitude to this devastating news?

Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad has asked AstraZeneca for “thorough explanation” to ease public concern.

Meanwhile, Malaysian doctor Dr Syafiq Nordin took to Facebook to “apologise” for allegedly giving misleading medical advice regarding the Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr Syafiq said that at the time, the shots were seen as the best solution to protect people from Covid-19 and that he, too, had been jabbed with three doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

He sought forgiveness for his mistakes.

His reaction was apparently prompted by news of Pfizer being “deeply sorry” for its “social media behaviour” in 2020 when the Covid-19 vaccine was still unheard of.

His April 17 Facebook post read: “Oh dear, announcing you’re sorry on Raya eve. Just a few thousand dollars’ fine? Is it worth the cost of the disease and the lives lost?”

He shared a link to the Pfizer news report by BioPharma Reporter.

Pfizer was accused of “bringing discredit” to the pharmaceutical industry after senior employees promoted its then yet-to-be-licensed Covid-19 jabs on social media platforms at the height of the pandemic.

The pharmaceutical giant’s UK’ medical director Dr Berkley Philips had retweeted a post made by the company’s US employee in 2020 on the vaccine’s efficacy. The post thanked volunteers who participated in the trial.

Pfizer has remained unapologetic about its vaccines.

But the post rattled pharmaceutical watchdog Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), which ruled that the post contained limited information on the vaccine’s efficacy, made no mention of adverse effects, and bore no safety information.

This meant that the company had promoted an “unlicensed medicine on Twitter”.

Pfizer was charged £34,800 in administrative costs following the tweet.

PMCPA’s investigation into Pfizer’s “misuse of social media to misleadingly and illegally promote its Covid-19 vaccine” unearthed more “misbehaviour”.

Pfizer UK responded by saying it was “deeply sorry and fully recognised and accepted issues highlighted by the PMCPA ruling”. It said it was reviewing its employees’ social media use to prevent stop regulatory missteps.

The Covid-19 narrative serves as a lesson for politicians to never again threaten the public into taking shots without informed consent. – May 7, 2024.

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