© Dinendra Haria/Sopa Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesAround 30 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in the UK
Dozens of patients and families whose lives have been damaged by extremely rare reactions to the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid vaccine have launched legal action against the pharmaceutical company.

While the vaccine is widely credited with protecting many millions of people from the virus, 81 patients died and 364 suffered severe reactions, some of them resulting in catastrophic injuries as a result of blood clots caused by the jab. Legal action is now being taken against AstraZeneca by the families of 19 people who died after being vaccinated and 54 patients who suffered severe reactions but survived.

Strokes, paralysis and repeated blood clots are among the symptoms of those who suffered very rare but severe reactions to the vaccine. Many have gone from being fit and healthy to being left struggling to walk and talk, with little hope of getting better.

Comment: Severe reactions to the covid vaccines are anything but rare. This is the case moreso with mRNA "vaccines" although we may have seen more had AstraZeneca been more widely adopted vs Pfizer/Moderna.

The latest NHS advice is that Covid-19 vaccination is safe and effective and that it gives people the best protection against Covid-19. NHS advice states: "Anyone who gets Covid-19 can become seriously ill or have long-term effects. The Covid-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others."

In autumn this year, people at higher risk of severe Covid could be offered a booster vaccine dose in preparation for winter 2023-24. For a smaller group of people, such as the elderly and immunosuppressed, an extra booster vaccine dose is already being offered this spring.

The 54 members of the class action group who survived the reaction have been diagnosed as having vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), a rare condition that has been identified after Covid-19 vaccination.

Lawyers representing the group, who are pursuing personal injury compensation in addition to a Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme claim, argue that the AstraZeneca vaccine was "not as safe as the public were entitled to expect" and that the case is not about finding fault "but about the reasonable expectation of safety". They claim people were provided with a false picture of safety and efficacy and expect the number joining the lawsuit to increase.

Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia affects approximately 1 in 50,000 AstraZeneca vaccine recipients under 50 years old, and one in 100,000 for those aged 50 and older in England, according to the NHS, which says the effect of the blood clots can be devastating.

AstraZeneca vaccinations were first administered on 4 January, 2021 as part of a rapid rollout of jabs by the NHS. Just a few weeks earlier, Margaret Keenan, 90, had become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer jab following its clinical approval. By September 2022, almost 25 million first doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and 27.2 million of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had been administered in the UK. Around 50 million AstraZeneca doses have been given in total.

As part of the drive to get vaccines developed and on the market quickly, the UK Government had early in the pandemic granted the pharmaceutical giants a legal indemnity protecting them from being sued by patients in the event of any complications. This means that if AstraZeneca has to pay compensation it will be covered by the taxpayer.

The Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme (VDPS) has received 4,017 applications for compensation of which 1,013 have, as of 6 March, been resolved. Of those, 622 related to the AstraZeneca vaccine, 348 for the Pfizer vaccine and 43 for the Moderna vaccine, according to a Freedom of Information request published by the NHS Business Authority this week. All of the claims relate to disability.

Health minister, Maria Caulfield, told Parliament last month that 48 VDPS claims had been successful. All of them are understood to relate to the AstraZeneca vaccine. "Medical reasons" were cited for the majority of cases being rejected. The number of administration staff working for the scheme has increased from four to 80 in recent months as the Government aims to speed up the process.

The scheme provides a one-off tax free payment, currently £120,000, to successful applicants where a vaccine has caused severe disablement. It does not prejudice the right of the disabled person to pursue a claim for damages through the courts. To qualify for a payment, an applicant needs to establish that they meet two main criteria: on the balance of probabilities, the vaccine caused disability, and that the resulting disablement is severe, classified as 60 per cent or more.
UK's first Covid-19 vaccine

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was the first to be approved for use in the UK with the Government ordering 100 million doses for use in its vaccination programme.

The vast majority of people had the vaccine without suffering complications, but within months reports emerged that a small number of people developed blood clots in combination with low platelet levels, called thrombocytopenia, after receiving a dose.

In April 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and these rare blood clots, but emphasised that the benefits of the vaccine continued to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people. The cases of blood clots that the MHRA reviewed were accompanied by abnormally low levels of platelets in the blood.

The following month, the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended under-40s were offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine due to the extra risk of serious side effects in younger people. Countries around the world had already suspended its use by this stage.

In 2022, the JCVI did not recommend using the AstraZeneca vaccine for the UK's booster campaigns and the Government confirmed it would not order any more doses.

It is no longer used in the UK. It has been used in several other countries around the world, but it is uncertain if any stocks are still being used.
The lawyers are calling upon the Government to "appropriately support" the vaccine injured and bereaved. Pre-action protocol letters have been sent to the Cambridge-based Anglo-Swedish company, which has yet to formally respond to the claims. Lawyers representing the AstraZeneca claimants expect more people to join the lawsuit given that more than 400 people have been recorded as suffering from blood clots.

Peter Todd, consultant solicitor with Scott-Moncrieff & Associates Ltd, is representing 33 of the claimants and told i: "According to the MHRA, in the UK up to 23 November, 2022, there had been 445 reports of major blood clots (thrombosis) with concurrent low platelets (thrombocytopenia) reported after AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, including, tragically, 81 deaths.

"These include strokes, heart attacks, amputations and other major life-changing injuries. This is an unusually large number of very serious injuries to have been caused by a vaccine. We expect to be able to establish in court that these clots were likely caused by the vaccine."

Mr Todd, who acted for 86 people with narcolepsy as a result of the 2009 pandemic swine flu vaccine, added: "We have started an action against AstraZeneca UK Ltd seeking damages for injury and consequential loss for a group so far comprised of 77 such claimants, under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, contending that the vaccine was not as safe as the public were entitled to expect.

"This is not about fault but about the reasonable expectation of safety. People were told that the vaccine was safe and they relied on such statements at face value. However they have suffered life-changing injury. The Government agreed to indemnify Astra Zeneca against these claims and we call upon the Government to appropriately support the vaccine injured and bereaved as well."

Officials said they could not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

A Government spokesperson said: "All vaccines being used in the UK have undergone robust clinical trials and have met the MHRA's strict standards of safety, effectiveness and quality. The vaccine damage payments scheme provides additional support to help ease the burden on individuals who have, in extremely rare circumstances, been severely disabled due to receiving a government-recommended vaccine for a listed disease."

AstraZeneca said it was unable to comment on "ongoing legal matters" regarding its Covid vaccine, also known as Vaxzevria.

A spokesman said: "Patient safety is our highest priority and regulatory authorities have clear and stringent standards to ensure the safe use of all medicines, including vaccines. Our sympathy goes out to anyone who has reported health problems.

"AstraZeneca and regulatory authorities, carefully record and assess all reports of potential adverse events associated with use of Vaxzevria. From the body of evidence in clinical trials and real-world data, Vaxzevria has continuously been shown to have an acceptable safety profile and regulators around the world consistently state that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of extremely rare potential side effects.

"The MHRA granted conditional marketing approval for Vaxzevria for the UK based on the safety profile and efficacy of the vaccine. Over 3 billion doses of the vaccine have been supplied to more than 180 countries and, according to independent estimates, Vaxzevria helped to save more than six million lives worldwide in the first year of availability alone."