Bulkley Valley District Hospital. (File photo)

Bulkley Valley District Hospital. (File photo)

Local MD COVID-19 update

Dr. Darren Jakubec writes about the risk of blood clots with the vaccine versus with the disease

Regarding blood clots and vaccinations and the COVID virus It is understandable that some people are worried about the blood clots with COVID vaccinations. The chance is very low, but this is obviously a concern. As a doctor working in a hospital, I see the risks and benefits from a different viewpoint, and I believe some perspective is important to share.

I am writing this as an individual doctor and not speaking on behalf of the health authority I work in (Northern Health).

I do not speak for all the doctors locally.

I am presenting some data in a way that is understandable. I am not a public health specialist. The numbers I quote below are only approximate and please do not quote these as exact.

I personally am working in the small town of Smithers, BC, mainly. The doctors here have not seen many COVID infected patients for ongoing management since we send the sickest people out to centres with intensive care units to care for them.

We have recently had some people here who were improving and hospitalized mainly for oxygen needs. I, therefore, called a specialist in B.C. who works with very ill COVID people constantly to get a more relevant and educated perspective. I wanted to get some approximate numbers.

READ MORE: What can we do after getting a COVID vaccine: Experts say clear guidance is needed

These I would like to share. These are all approximations as of mid-April 2021. But the numbers are striking, which is why I felt the need to share them. As doctors there are roughly three places that we commonly look for blood clots in the body: lower limbs, lungs and brain (called a stroke when in the brain).

But they can occur anywhere and everywhere in the body. The concern with the lower limb clots is that bits of clot break off and go to other parts of the body, most commonly the lungs, where people with COVID infections are already in distress.

Clots are remarkably common in people who get ill with the COVID-19 virus compared to other viruses. There have been small but still unexpectedly higher rates of younger people getting strokes with this virus.

If you got COVID, and you were admitted to the hospital, your chance of getting a blood clot in the hospital or immediately upon leaving the hospital are estimated to be at least 20 per cent.

READ MORE: B.C. workers now eligible for three hours of paid leave to get COVID-19 immunization

It is common practice to put people on a blood thinner to prevent clots when they come into the hospital with this virus. If you end up in the intensive care unit (ICU) with COVID, this one doctor I talked to estimates somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of people will get a blood clot significant enough to require additional treatment.

After death, at autopsy, one source reported finding a 58 per cent incidence of blood clots in those who have had the COVID virus. This does not mean the virus or clot caused the death. But likely at the very least contributed to the death.

A fully vaccinated person’s chance of getting COVID are about one in 11,000. The chances of getting a version even worse than the common cold are even more remote. If you’re fully vaccinated, COVID presents a minimal risk to you, and you present a minimal risk to everyone else.

Having said that, recent data shows that 5,800 people in the USA contracted COVID despite being fully vaccinated. It is still a very small percentage of the millions of people that are vaccinated in the USA. But it occurs.

This emphasizes the continuing importance of masks and social distancing. (Source: New York Times)

The evidence so far suggests that the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines may provide some protection against a variety of strains. And a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to be walking around infected and not know it (“asymptotic infection”) and they are potentially less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.

However, further investigation is ongoing. (It is very hard to get data on people who have COVID and do not have symptoms. Because they normally would not come in for a test. So, there is still a lot that we do not know.) (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/CDC)

In Israel, they vaccinated almost the entire population and they have had a 98% decrease in the incidence of COVID tests being positive. You can now be outdoors without masks and gather together in whatever numbers you want, I understand.

Indoors I believe they are still mandating masks.

Again, all numbers and measures are changing over time. This is one country’s example of how vaccines are working well and life is getting back to normal. So far as I know, there has yet to be a resident in British Columbia admitted to the intensive care unit for a vaccine-related complication.

At the time of writing this, about one-third of the COVID cases diagnosed in B.C. are felt to be a more infectious variant initially found in Brazil. (Source: Doctors of BC)

In Brazil, there have been small but significant numbers of young and very young people becoming very ill. Let’s hope this will not happen here in Canada.

Also at the time of writing this, in B.C., there are approximately 1,000 new cases per day.

There have been about 120,000 people infected since the start of this pandemic. 441 are hospitalized, 138 in critical care units. And so far 1,538 deaths are the confirmed deaths. (Source: BC CDC website)

So far, 1.38 million people in BC have gotten the vaccines. None have been admitted to a hospital ICU for a clot-related complication from a vaccine that we know of.

There are no deaths in BC attributed to the vaccines that we know of.

I know there is a lot of information out there and it’s sometimes difficult to sort out what is important.

Darren Jakubec

Medical Doctor practicing anesthesia and emergency medicine

Bulkley Valley District Hospital


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