Clots, misinformation, pacemaking, and more…


Data suggest no increased risk of blood clots from the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Australia shouldn’t pause its rollout: The world is currently undertaking a vaccination programme like that never seen before in human history – we are vaccinating record numbers of people in record time (less so in Australia, unfortunately). It is important with this vaccination programme that we continue to monitor for safety and efficacy – as with any vaccination programme – and for unexpected events. Recent reports of blood clotting in vaccinated people have been found to be no more frequent than in normal, unvaccinated people. If you take a large enough group of people and monitor them, some of these people will have blood clots, or heart attacks, or miscarriages and some will die, just by nature of being human. This is why when conducting vaccination safety monitoring it is important to compare these events to the background rate. This comparison also allows us to identify abnormal patterns and determine whether there could be a side effect related to the vaccine.

Several countries have halted use of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine due to fears over blood clots. However these are likely due to public pressure rather than any real medical evidence. This is the first time a large vaccination programme has been under this much public scrutiny, and reports of things like blood clots make members of the public apprehensive. Unfortunately, it seems this has lead to decisions that are not evidence-based.

For further reading on background rates, I like this study that was conducted in New Zealand: When a large group of people was randomly selected and asked to report any symptoms they had in the last week, almost 90% reported at least one symptom.

Disrupting the cycle of misinformation: “A growing body of evidence shows that ‘those who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to be getting their information from social media. What’s particularly enlightening,’ said Caulfield, ‘is to look at the amount of misinformation coming from celebrities, sports stars, politicians and other prominent people compared with the level of social media engagement that content receives … Prominent public figures disseminated only about 20% of the misinformation sampled, but that misinformation attracted nearly 70% of all social media engagements.’ “

The first 12 months of COVID-19 – a timeline of immunological insights: Was this the first coronavirus pandemic? A pandemic of respiratory disease known as the ‘Russian flu’ occurred in 1889 and 1890 and caused approximately one million deaths globally. This pandemic has been speculated to be caused by an influenza A virus. However, a study from 2005 showed that OC43, which is a human beta-coronavirus, diverged from the closely related bovine coronavirus during the time frame of the ‘Russian flu’. This makes it plausible that OC43 — which is still circulating in humans, causing common colds — was the causative agent of this pandemic. The other three endemic coronaviruses in humans are speculated to also be of zoonotic origin … This suggests that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is not the first coronavirus to cause a pandemic and, given the frequency of outbreaks (SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV since 2012), it is likely not the last one. 

Today’s Abused Health Concept

5 ways to spot if someone is trying to mislead you when it comes to science: Have you ever noticed that people promoting invalid health information often all sound similar? That they use the same narratives? That they use the same tricks to sound more convincing? This article gives 5 warning flags that should make you cautious about the information being presented. 

Great Moments in Health and Science

The Heartbeat of Invention – How pacemaker creator Wilson Greatbatch saved countless lives: Able to sustain a healthy heart rhythm in those with vulnerable hearts, the pacemaker extends lives whilst improving function and quality of life.

Lesser-known Health Professions

Medical Illustrator: Medical illustrators use their skills I design to provide visual communication tools used in the medical and life sciences fields. They translate medical information into images that can be used to help patients and others understand particular medical issues.