AstraZeneca vaccine headache: What headaches should you be wary of after MHRA warning?

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The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has been given to millions of people around the world. Today the UK’s medicines regulator has issued a health warning to those who experience a headache after receiving the vaccine. But it is not all headaches that require medical help, so when exactly should you seek out professional health advice?

Several countries have temporarily suspended the distribution of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after reports linking the vaccine to blood clots.

The vaccine’s use has been suspended in many countries including Norway, Austria, Germany and Ireland.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to a death in Austria where a person was formerly diagnosed with blood clots.

Both the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have said there is no evidence there is any link between the vaccine and blood clots and have urged countries to continue using it.

Britain’s medicines regulator the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency today issued new guidance after reviewing the reports.

Previously the MHRA said, “given the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause”.

On March 18, the MHRA advised people experiencing a headache for more than four days after having the Oxford vaccine.

The medicines regulator added people should also seek help if they have bruising somewhere other than the injection site after a few days.

The MHRA said its latest advice was a “precautionary measure” following a “very small” number of reports of an extremely rare form of blood clots occurring in conjunction with lowered platelets after vaccination.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “We continually monitor safety during use of all vaccines to protect the public and to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.

“Our thorough and careful review, alongside the critical assessment of leading, independent scientists, shows that there is no evidence that blood clots in veins are occurring more than would be expected in the absence of vaccination, for either vaccine.

“We have received a very small number of reports of an extremely rare form of blood clot in the cerebral veins (sinus vein thrombosis, or CSVT) occurring together with lowered platelets soon after vaccination.

“This type of blood clot can occur naturally in people who have not been vaccinated, as well as in those suffering from COVID-19.”

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The MHRA was keen to stress the “extremely rare rate of occurrence” of these events of CSVT.

Sinus vein thrombosis is a condition where a blood clot forms in the cerebral vein in the brain.

Symptoms of this condition include headache, blurred vision, fainting or loss of consciousness.

The medicines regulator emphasised people should still get their vaccine when offered due to the rarity of these symptoms.

So far there have been five cases of CSVT which equates to a rate of one in one million people vaccinated.

These five cases were men aged 19 to 59 who experienced a clot along with low blood platelet count.

One of the five has since died according to the MHRA.

The European Medicines Agency has said the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is a “safe and effective vaccine”, the regulator’s executive director Emer Cooke said.

Normal side effects following the coronavirus vaccine include:

  • A painful, heavy feeling and tenderness if your arm
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • General aches or mild flu-like symptoms.
  • Feeling feverish is also not uncommon for two to three days.

However, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.

Some people also experience swelling of the glands.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today defended the Oxford vaccine, praising the company’s decision not to sell the vaccine for profit.

Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was developed because of UK taxpayers putting the funding into the science, to the development, to the clinical trials and because of AstraZeneca, with an incredibly bold and generous decision which we fully support but was their decision, to offer this vaccine around the world at cost.

“Working with institutes, like the Serum Institute of India, Oxford and AstraZeneca are providing a vaccine for the whole world.

“They are not taking a profit from it, we are very proud of that fact.”

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