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 http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield