Jeremy Vine caller shut down by guest during vaccine debate

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The anti-vax movement has taken on a new meaning in the age of coronavirus, with what was once considered a small group of conspiracy theorists exploding into a group of millions. US President Joe Biden called the current situation “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” just this week.

Those in the anti-vax camp have used social media to spread misinformation about the Covid vaccines.

One of the most common calls to avoid the vaccine has been the risk of developing blood clots – a possible but exceedingly rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine which raised some concern in medical circles in the early stages of the rollout.

While scientists and medical professionals were quick to ensure the public knew their risk of developing one of these rare clots – known as Thrombosis With Thrombocytopenia (TTS) – was minuscule, the anti-vax movement seized on the information.

Now, a new study has set things straight, and proved one crucial thing: you are more likely to develop a TTS from Covid itself, not the vaccine which could prevent you from catching the virus.

The pre-print study was published in The Lancet this week and encompassed more than a million people.

The study found “similar safety profiles” for the AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

Crucially, it added the incidence of rare blood clots was far higher among people with COVID-19 than those who had received either vaccine.

AstraZeneca’s viral vector vaccine has been plagued by concerns over rare incidents of blood clots since March, with younger people offered the Pfizer or Moderna jab instead in the UK.

However, the main takeaway from the study’s authors is that the incidence rates of thrombosis are far higher in people who have been infected by Covid, than those who have received either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.

The study, funded by the European Medicines Agency, covered data from some six million people in Catalonia, Spain.

Around 1.3 million of these had been vaccinated between December 2020 and May 2021 – 945,941 with Pfizer (778,534 with 2 doses) and 426,272 with AstraZeneca.

A further 222,710 people who had been infected with COVID-19 were also included in the study.

The authors of the study wrote: “In this study, BNT162b2 [Pfizer] and ChAdOx1 [AstraZeneca] vaccines have been seen to have similar safety profiles.

“Safety signals for both venous thromboembolic events and thrombocytopenia following BNT162b2 vaccination have been identified, with their magnitude similar to these same events among people vaccinated with ChAdOx1.

“These safety signals must be interpreted with caution with further investigation required to confirm causality.​

“Regardless of the vaccine used, the increase in rates of thrombosis among persons with COVID-19 is far higher than those seen among persons vaccinated.”​

The battle against the anti-vaxxers has been raging since the early days of the pandemic.

In October 2020, a report by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) lambasted social media companies for allowing the anti-vaccine movement to remain on their platforms.

The report’s authors noted that social media accounts held by so-called anti-vaxxers have increased their following by at least 7.8 million people since 2019.

On Facebook alone, 31 million people are believed to follow ant-vax groups, with 17 million people subscribing to similar accounts on YouTube.

The CCDH calculated that the anti-vaccine movement could realise US$1 billion in annual revenues for social media firms.

The report said: “The decision to continue hosting known misinformation content and actors left online anti-vaxxers ready to pounce on the opportunity presented by coronavirus.”

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