At least 36 people in the US developed a rare blood disorder, called thrombocytopenia, after receiving either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, the only two vaccines authorised for emergency use in the US.

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in December lifted the hopes of many people not only in India but across the globe as the vaccine was likely to bring closure to the deadly pandemic that cost the world millions of lives. But recently, the vaccines which were termed to be the new ray of hope are now acting as a life-threatening vaccine for some people. According to the latest news, at least 36 people in the US have developed a rare and dangerous blood disorder, called thrombocytopenia, after receiving either of the two COVID-19 vaccines authorised by the US government. 

It has been reported that more than 31 million people till now in the United States have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and almost 36 similar cases have been reported to the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) by the end of January. These reported cases involve either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, the only two vaccines which received permission for emergency use in the US.

Though it has not yet been proven that this rare blood disorder called thrombocytopenia which leads to lack of platelets, a blood component essential for clotting, is in any sense related to COVID-19 vaccines. But many experts suspect that the vaccine shot does act as a trigger in some way as Thrombocytopenia has been seen after other vaccines as well. Although, the vaccine experts yet don’t know the reason behind such side effect which is not only harmful but life-threatening as well.

What exactly is Thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is a rare disorder that lowers the number of platelets in the blood, the blood cell that helps in the process of blood clotting at the site of injury. There are different types of thrombocytopenia with different causes.

According to Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 1 in 35,000 people in the US suffers from immune thrombocytopenia or ITP. For an unknown reason, the immune system of the person suffering from ITP makes antibodies in response to the platelets present in the body.  The patient’s immune system attacks and destroys its own platelets and produces fewer platelets than normal. It is observed that when the platelet count is low enough, bruising and bleeding are common symptoms that occur on the body of the patient.

Few COVID vaccine recipients develop blood disorder:

A New York City woman developed bruising on her arms and legs and bleeding blisters in her mouth just after a day of receiving her first shot of Moderna COVID vaccine. She was immediately hospitalised on the same day and after receiving treatment, she was released last week. While, the same condition led to the death of Dr. Gregory Michael, 56, an obstetrician in Miami Beach in January, when he developed symptoms for immune thrombocytopenia after three days of receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

Luz Legaspi, who was hospitalized with a severe case of immune thrombocytopenia, showing bruising and bleeding under the skin caused by lack of platelets. 

So far, thrombocytopenia condition is extremely low when compared to the number of people getting vaccinated. Till now, only 36 people out of 43 million in the US who got the vaccine shot have encountered this rare platelet-suppressing condition. Although this eventually is seen as a small fraction of the population getting affected, still FDA is investigating and assessing the reported cases of thrombocytopenia in order to learn if more such events have taken place.

Should people be worried about getting vaccinated?

Since this news has caused a lot of worry and uncertainty regarding the vaccine, experts and researchers believe that it is too soon to predict that the cases of thrombocytopenia in patients receiving the COVID vaccine are causal or coincidental. Also, experts are urging people to not take this as a reason for not getting vaccinated.

In a statement, Pfizer said, “We take reports of adverse events very seriously and is collecting information to share with the FDA.”  While Moderna also provided a statement and said that the company continuously monitors the safety of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine using all sources of data and routinely shares safety information with regulators.  

By Mahima Joshi

Mahima Joshi is a writer at The Wonk. She is a postgraduate in Journalism, who is just curious about everything that is happening around. She is an enthusiastic reader especially concerning gender dynamics in mythological stories.

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