FRIDAY, April 16
Doctors have demanded the media be much more cautious in the way blood clot cases are reported in people who have received COVID-19 vaccines, warning public confidence in the program is being undermined.
They fear some reporting risks unnecessarily scaring vulnerable parts of the community.
Last night, federal health officials revealed they were investigating the death of a 48-year-old woman in New South Wales who is believed to have died from blood clots after receiving her shot.
But early tests indicated there was no conclusive link to the vaccine and in a statement last night, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) pointed out common blood clots occur in around 50 Australians every day.
“The blood clotting disorders being investigated in connection with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are very rare and differ from common blood clots,” the statement said.
“[It] has been confirmed in only two cases out of over 700,000 people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia.”
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But some reporting of the case and other issues with the national vaccine rollout has alarmed some doctors and experts in misinformation.
Vice-president of the Australian Medical Association Chris Moy said elevating unconfirmed vaccine side effects or complications — without appropriate context — could have a devastating effect on public confidence.
“What we’re seeing at the moment, which is something we all feared, is that the media scrutiny — because of the heightened anxiety about the vaccines — is microscopic on every single thing that has gone on with the vaccine,” Dr Moy said.
“Whether or not it has anything to do with the vaccine.”
He said in many cases, conclusions were being drawn and shared by people with little or no expertise and warned the media would be partly responsible if unvaccinated Australians get seriously ill from COVID-19.
“The concern is that this over-analysis at the moment, without real knowledge, is essentially the media playing doctor,” he said.
“And it’s actually causing a material effect on vaccine confidence, which really shouldn’t be the role of the media.
“Particularly if they’re actually having negative effects when they are reporting things which ultimately have nothing to do with the vaccine at all.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine is no longer recommended for people under the age of 50 due to the extremely small risk of clots.
The government last week declared Pfizer would be the jab of choice for younger Australians and it said it has “secured” an extra 20 million doses, which are due to arrive in the last quarter of this year.
Chris Cooper from Reset Australia, a think tank that is running a campaign to stop vaccine misinformation, hoped the media would resist the temptation to run sensational headlines as the rollout continues.
“Although that might drive clicks, it also drives uncertainty about the vaccine,” he said.
“Anti-vaxxers will find the part of the story that reinforces their world view. They will amplify it on social media and if there’s not enough context in a story, it really fuels the misinformation machine.”
A petition to change the “outdated and offensive” name of one of Australia’s favourite party foods has gained over 1000 signatures.
According to a new change.org campaign, fairy bread should be no longer – with the petition’s creator declaring that the term ‘fairy’ “has been used to belittle and oppress others”.
“The fact that Australians in 2021 are still using this word in the name of a children’s food is reprehensible,” they wrote.
“I never personally ate fairy-bread while growing up, and am proud to say that I still have not. However, I would like to think that if I had a child I would not be using a term as crude as the term ‘fairy’ to describe it.”
The creator proposed changing the name to ‘Party Bread’, “for the sake of countless marginalised Australians”.
Moles on preschool-aged children may predict the risk of melanoma later in life, according to new research from James Cook University, Brisbane, reports the ABC.
The study was conducted using 51 people in Townsville who had been part of a study decades earlier when they were children.
Dermatologist Ramez Barsoum said the project was a collaboration between himself and Simone Harrison, who conducted the initial research on Caucasian children between 1985 and 1994.
He said only 51 from the original trial could be re-recruited — others had moved away or declined to participate.
In the original study, the number and size of moles were recorded for 484 children, recruited through their parents, who also gave information about their sun and lifestyle habits.
“We know that the number of moles is a risk-factor in terms of developing melanoma and that anything that’s 5 millimetres or more has that increased risk,” he said.
“There was this unique opportunity to see: did these things happen, were the high-risk kids, 25 years later, were they the high-risk adults.
“What we found was the kids who had lots of moles growing up, the ones that had more sun exposure … freckles as well, when we looked at them as adults, they were the ones that had again, the highest number [of moles].
Dr Barsoum said there were also a few participants who, in their 20s, had already developed melanoma.
He said very little research like this had been conducted before.
“We don’t really know how moles develop over a timeline because there’s not really … that opportunity to have the same cohort over that kind of timeframe.”
He said understanding this could help to identify at-risk children.
“[We could] intensify our efforts early on in the piece rather than waiting until they are young adults who’ve already developed a lot of risk factors for melanoma.”
The research also supported ongoing evidence which suggested sunburn before the age of seven to be another considerable risk factor in mole development.
Dr Barsoum said it would be good if one day, children could be screened for melanoma risk and then given more frequent checks if they’re found to be in one of the higher-risk categories.
He also said it should be remembered that many risks, like sunburn, were preventable, with appropriate, sun-safe practices.
While the data showed strong correlations among the participants, Dr Barsoum acknowledged that as all the earlier study participants were Caucasian, there were still limitations to how predictive the data could be.
“It’s not a representative sample of the diverse community that now lives in Townsville.
“Nowadays of course, there’s an increased focus in terms of getting skin-of-colour recognised, in that most of the literature covers Caucasian skin, so it’s a little bit underrepresented in terms of how it presents.
“Even though they are at lower risk, the risk is not zero, and therefore we should definitely try and include that in our future studies.”
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