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The MHRA has given us all a headache

The MHRA has given us all a headache

Blimey, what a day. It’s been all about clots and brains, with an abundance of the former and very little of the latter – with the result that the MHRA’s warning about post-AZ vaccine pain-in-the-head certainly had me holding mine.

True, they pointed out that the vaccine is safe and effective and, yes, they explained that vaccinees should only be concerned, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis-wise, if post-jab headache persists beyond four days. But once that message is filtered through media headlines and soundbites, it counts for sod all. Now, as far as the public is concerned, vaccine + headache = death.

This is a tricky situation, isn’t it, what with headache in general, and post-vaccine headache in particular, being common, and CSVT being zebra-rare. So will my clinical judgement – that mysterious wisdom inevitably elicited by quote, seeking medical attention, unquote – placate all the chicken-lickens?

Well, I doubt it, because it won’t even placate me. I seem to have lost my cerebral venous sinus thrombometer. And when faced with an anxious, headachey patient and a potentially fatal diagnosis which in GP-land is impossible to exclude, I’d rather fear the sky falling on both our heads. Cue the type of medicine many of us find the most offensive: defensive.

Also cue jammed phonelines, rammed A&Es and crammed scanning departments. What a pity. This was the week that many European countries paused the vaccine programme on the ‘precautionary principle’. And this was the opportunity for us to turn this warped logic on its thrombus-free head.

But no. For the sake of what sounds like a bit of MHRArse-covering, the lightning-strike chance of a rare and random event transforms into a storm of mass anxiety. That causes harm enough – but the undermining of already-shaky vaccine confidence will be the real and enduring headache.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Tim Lee 19 March, 2021 4:33 pm

So, 6 excess cavernous sinus thromboses out of 1.5 million vaccinated people in Germany, and the review states “All experts agreed unanimously that a
pattern could be discerned here and that a connection between the reported
above-mentioned diseases and the vaccination with COVID-19 Vaccine
AstraZeneca was not implausible.”
The combined oral contraceptive pill raises risk of CVST by around 7.5 – shall we ban it? The anomaly may well be a simple sharpshooter fallacy, the risk even if present and not a statistical anomaly would be 1:250,000 and yet we have now panicked 60million uk people half to death with the attendant risks of non-vaccination and protracting the pandemic…. Lord, give me strength…