Diabetics are being encouraged to continue coming forward for the coronavirus vaccine, following news that a 48-year-old woman died after developing a very rare blood clot condition likely linked to her recent AstraZeneca shot.
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of some types of blood clots, but experts said there is no evidence to suggest they run a greater risk of developing the rare condition believed to be caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).
Central Coast woman Genene Norris, who had several chronic diseases, died last week at John Hunter Hospital after she developed blood clots in the arteries and veins and had a low platelet count.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s vaccine safety investigation group concluded on Friday that the death of the woman was likely linked to the jab, but it remains under investigation because of the unusual clinical profile of the case, the regulator’s head, Professor John Skerritt said.
There have been two previously confirmed Australian cases of TTS, and cases number fewer than five per million recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK.
The condition led vaccine advisory group ATAGI to recommend people under 50 receive the Pfizer vaccine over the AstraZeneca shot, although patients fact sheets distributed by the federal government last week explained these patients can still choose the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Adults of any age with diabetes are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as part of phase 1b of the national coronavirus vaccine rollout, along with other people who have a number of other health conditions.
Professor Stephen Twigg, head of the department of endocrinology at RPA Hospital, said there was no evidence diabetics were of an elevated risk of developing TTS.
“Blood clots in diabetes are mainly linked in with artery complications, not vein ones,” Professor Twigg said.
“And these venous clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which are a much rarer event than we normally see … they appear to be immune-based,” he said.
Professor Twigg said the current recommendation was that both vaccines were suitable for people with diabetes, and people who are under 50 should follow the latest ATAGI advice.
“If people with diabetes do develop COVID then their risk is greater than the general community, so the recommendation that people with diabetes should receive a vaccine should be quite a firm one.”
According to self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, roughly 1.2 million Australians have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Roughly one in four people over the age of 70 have the condition.
Dr Steve Stranks, president of the Australia Diabetes Society, said he was also of the opinion that people with diabetes are not at higher risk of developing TTS.
“The risk of severe COVID-19 illness for people with diabetes is far greater than the risk of complications with vaccines,” Dr Stranks said.
“The recommendation remains that adults with diabetes should get vaccinated. We encourage people with diabetes to talk to their doctor or other health professional about their personal circumstances.”
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