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Cancellations, frustration, and gratitude; different reactions surround AstraZeneca vaccine

Since concerns were raised of the AstraZeneca vaccine causing blood clots, vaccination appointments have been cancelled on numerous occasions throughout the country.

The Irish population have been frustrated with this news ever since it first came to light.

“This cancellation is very annoying,” said staff nurse, Bernie Malin.

People are aware of the risks involved with taking the vaccine, but seem to still be passionate about receiving it.

“I am a healthcare worker, I know that the benefit of getting the vaccine outweighs the risk. I want to get it and the public want it too,” added Malin.

Thousands of appointments were cancelled within the first week of the blood clot news being revealed, and appointments continue to be cancelled to this day.

Vaccinator Siobhan O’Reily said: “All these cancellations make it hard for us vaccinators with not many people to vaccinate.

“From speaking to some patients, I can tell that they are feeling very agitated by this news and it’s going to really delay on the easing of restrictions here,” added O’Reilly.

Patients with cancelled appointments reacted to this news in one of two ways – they appeared to be either frustrated or grateful.

“We’ve been waiting long enough to get appointments, and now this. When will this nightmare end?” said 48-year-old Martin Cusack.

Cusack was due to receive the vaccine the week the news of the blood clots came out.

“Being in the ‘at-risk’ category, I had been waiting for this appointment for a long time,” Cusack said.

The news caused hesitations and uneasiness amongst the public regarding the safety of the vaccine.

“Why wouldn’t I feel safe? There are higher chances of getting blood clots with much more commonly used medications, the contraceptive pill that young women take daily being one of the biggest examples.”

Although regulations are changing for the AstraZeneca vaccine on a rapid basis, the public are still split on their decision on whether or not to still take the vaccine.

AstraZeneca has become the issue of debate in several European countries

“Without a shadow of a doubt, any vaccine they offer me, I am taking it,” explained Cusack.

Fifty-seven-year-old Breda Finucane is not of the same mind set as Cusack.

“You’d have to be absolutely mad to take any one of them vaccines at this point, no one knows what’s going to happen in the long run. We thought the same when they first got approved and now look where we are,” said Finucane.

Finucane’s view is similar to that of many other patients who feel grateful that their appointments had been cancelled.

The news of this severe side effect with the AstraZeneca vaccine has resulted in a lot of online commotion regarding the risks being taken by continuing to administer the new vaccinations to the public.

“I’ve read the news, read the science behind them. The vaccines we use take almost 10 years to be checked for safety. 10 years!” Finucane added.

National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) chairperson Professor Karina Butler stated that although the side effect is “very rare”, it is “of high consequence” and increases as you go down in age groups.

A second-year medical student, Mariam El-Hassany received her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine days before the news of blood clots gained media attention.

“I actually took the vaccine two days before the news of blood clots broke out. I was really nervous that that could have been me,” said El-Hassany.

El-Hassany expresses her understanding of the medication and the rate in which these side effects could occur.

“Chances of getting a bad case of COVID-19 decrease the younger and healthier you are, so I’m not sure which I am more afraid of right now.”

Although healthcare officials have reassured AstraZeneca vaccine recipients that the second dose is safe to receive, beneficiaries are uncertain on what to do. 

“I still haven’t decided if I’m getting the next dose,” added El-Hassany.

As research has progressed and more information has become available, the use of the vaccination was suspended in even more age groups.

As of today, it currently stands that the vaccination should not be used in those aged under 50 years of age.

Health officials advised that for those under 50, the second dose is advised to beneficiaries who did not react unfavourably to the first dose.

However, the government have expressed that most of the future AstraZeneca vaccines will be used mainly in those aged 50 to 69 years, until more safety information becomes available.

People have been complaining online and expressing their agitation with the cancellation of these vaccination appointments as they believe this will delay the easing of restrictions.

When this question was posed to O’Reilly, she said: “I do think that the appointments being cancelled will delay the easing of restrictions, but it’s the health and safety of the population, we shouldn’t rush decisions with something like this.”

The information on the safety and use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has changed several times over the past few weeks.

However, healthcare professionals are hopeful that the age restrictions may drop throughout the course of the year, as more research and safety checks are conducted.

“People need to understand that this is all so new. The information will change and get updated all the time. I have no doubt that it will change again, and I’d say it’ll be safe for even younger ages before the year is out,” said Malin.

While this information is still being gathered on the safety and use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, there has been progress made with other vaccines.

The J&J one-dose vaccine has been approved for use in over 50s.

Alongside this, Ireland has received a further supply of vaccine doses from both Pfizer and Moderna.

This supply will be used for the rescheduled appointments and to aid the country’s vaccination plans, and eventual easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

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