According to a study published in the Nature Medicine journal, COVID-19 is more likely to cause rare neurological conditions than vaccines developed.
The study, led by the University of Oxford, analyzed the health records of 32 million people in England to identify the risks of developing rare brain conditions before and after testing positive for COVID-19, or receiving the first dose of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca Plc or Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE jabs.
The researchers compared how often neurological complications occurred in set windows of time. While the vaccines were found to result in an increase of neurological complications, like Bell’s palsy and Guillain-Barré syndrome, the study found that contracting COVID-19 presented an even bigger risk.
While rare cases of such complications led many countries to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups, Martina Patone, co-author of the study, stated that different vaccine presented different risk.
“We found different risks for different types of neurological condition, depending on which vaccine people received. However, these were substantially lower than the risks occurring in association with a positive COVID-19 PCR test.”Martina Patone
There were, however, several limitations to the study. For example, only risks associated with the first dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were examined as data from second doses were limited at the time of the study.
“The Covid-19 vaccines are very effective at reducing risks of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection,” said study co-author Julia Hippisley-Cox.
U.K. regulators added Guillain-Barré syndrome to the list of rare side effects from the AstraZaneca vaccine last week.
COVID-19 Poses Much Bigger Risk of Blood Clots than Vacine
However, in a separate study, Doctors concluded that getting COVID-19 poses much bigger risk of blood clots. The national advocacy group for patients with blood-clot disorders says there is a greater risk of getting blood clots from COVID-19 than there is from the vaccine.
Thrombosis Canada issued an updated statement on the risk of blood clots, after the European Medicines Agency released its final report on the risk of blood clots after getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The agency said there is no evidence of increased risk of blood clots from the vaccine, but added there is still not enough evidence to say if the vaccine played a role in a small number of clots in the vein that drains blood from the brain.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, disclosed further analysis is ongoing in Canada and around the world.
“Overall, the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and protecting Canadians from COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks.”Dr. Theresa Tam
Thrombosis Canada, whose board is made up of physicians specializing in blood clots, says the incidence of those clots, known as cerebral sinus vein thrombosis, occurred at a rate between one in 250,000 and one in 500,000 people who received the vaccine.
By comparison, they noted blood clots occurred in about one in 20 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and about one in 100 patients who have COVID-19, but were not hospitalized.
Dr. James Douketis, President of Thrombosis Canada and a blood clot specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, noted it can be hard to reconcile the risk of a serious complication like a blood clot but he said it is an extremely rare reaction.
“We’re dealing with a vaccine in the middle of a pandemic that can help potentially millions and millions of people, in many ways, not least of which is preventing blood clots related to COVID.”Dr. James Douketis
At least four European countries that halted AstraZeneca injections pending the review are resuming them, with France, Germany and Italy restarting the vaccinations today, October 25, and Spain planning to do so next week.