Govt aware of AstraZeneca vaccine side effects when it was deployed, says Noor Hisham

Medical personnel administering the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Malaysia. – The Vibes file pic, May 27, 2024.

THE Health Ministry decided to use the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine despite knowing its side effects because the number of daily fatalities was alarming at that time, said former health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“Before we started using the AstraZeneca vaccine, we reviewed the papers on its side effects. At that time, there was fear regarding the potential for serious side effects caused by the vaccine.

“During clinical trials, although there was concern, we were facing 300 to 500 deaths daily from Covid-19.

“The fear was minimal, with an estimated risk of 0.004%, but cases of myocardial infarction had been documented.

“We know (about the side effects), but the public did not, because of the fear,” he said at the Mercy Malaysia International Humanitarian Conference today, reported the New Straits Times.

He was asked by an audience member to comment on pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca’s recent acknowledgement of side effects of its Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry had to weigh the small risks against the significant benefits in deciding to use the vaccine, especially when the period was the peak of the Delta variant during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We closely monitored and reported side effects, most of which were mild, but there are actually a few that actually need our further attention. You cannot conclude that it’s based on the vaccine.”

He said the side effects of vaccines were tracked through adverse events following immunisation (AEFI).

“It is important to have substantial proof before attributing complications to the vaccine.

“With 98% of the population vaccinated, any adverse events are often blamed on the vaccine without proper evidence.

“However, there was no significant increase in myocardial infarction conditions pre- and post-vaccination.

“Likewise, the polio vaccine. Polio vaccine also can cause polio. One in one million. There is a risk there, but more important is to manage that risk,” he added.

He also said that with 98% of the population vaccinated, unrelated events like strokes or heart attacks could be mistakenly attributed to vaccines.

AstraZeneca admitted in a court document that its Covid-19 vaccine can cause a rare blood clotting side effect.

It was reported that the pharmaceutical giant is facing lawsuits over claims that the vaccine could cause death or serious injury, with a total of 51 cases filed in the United Kingdom High Court amounting to RM595 million. – May 27, 2024.

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