‘Fit and healthy’ mother-of-two, 51, died from blood clot ‘likely’ to have been caused by AstraZeneca Covid jab, inquest hears
Michelle Barlow, 51, began suffering headaches and nausea about a week after receiving her first dose of the jab in March
A ‘fit and healthy’ mother-of-two died from a blood clot ‘likely’ to have been caused by the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, an inquest has heard.
Michelle Barlow, 51, began suffering headaches and nausea about a week after receiving her first dose of the jab in March.
She was eventually admitted to hospital and then tragically died later that month.
Senior coroner Timothy Brennand heard that Mrs Barlow, who worked as a civil servant for the Department of Work and Pensions for 34 years, had suffered blood clots likely to have been caused by the vaccine.
An inquest at Bolton Coroners Court heard the condition was a ‘very rare’ side-effect to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Michelle, a mother-of two from Orrell in Wigan, received her first dose of the vaccine on March 7.
Michelle’s husband, Ian, told the hearing that in the days that followed, she began to experience ‘flu-like symptoms’, and later developed headaches, diarrhoea and nausea.
By March 19, Mrs Barlow’s symptoms had become ‘overwhelming’ so she sought help at Wigan Infirmary.
Doctors carried out tests, which showed she had a ‘very low’ blood platelet count. She was discharged and told to return for a check-up the following week.
However, Mrs Barlow’s condition failed to improve and she was readmitted to hospital the next day.
Doctors suspected she had a gastroenteritis infection, the inquest heard.
Mr Barlow said the family was unable to be with her at the hospital due to Covid restrictions and on March 22 he got a phone call from a nurse telling him to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
‘I knew something wasn’t right,’ he said. ‘When I got that phone call, I expected to go and see my wife and she would survive.’
She was eventually admitted to hospital at Wigan Infirmary (pictured), where she later died
When he arrived, Mr Barlow said his wife told him doctors ‘could not do anything for her’.
‘The doctors came in and explained,’ said Mr Barlow. ‘I just said to them ‘you have to save her’.’
Mrs Barlow died with her family by her bedside the following day.
Pathologist Dr Naveen Sharma gave her cause of death as ‘multi-organ failure as a consequence of pulmonary embolism’.
He said there was likely a ‘causative link’ between the blood clot in Mrs Barlow’s lungs and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Dr Sharma said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had this month produced guidance suggesting a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the ‘very rare’ side effect of blood clots.
He said 425 cases of major blood clots had been identified in people who had taken the AstraZeneca vaccine and said this represented ‘rare but very clearly recognised potential complications’.
Of the 425 cases, 215 in women and 206 in men, 154 cases related to blood clots in the head and 271 in other parts of the body.
Furthermore, the ages ranged from 18 to 93, with 101 cases in the 50 to 59 age range, 19 of which were among the 73 fatal cases in total.
He said currently 24.8 million people had been given the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 24.1 million people had been double-jabbed with the same medicine.
Paying tribute to his wife, Mr Barlow said: ‘She was a wonderful, wife, mother and grandmother.
‘She was nothing short of perfect. Michelle was and is to me the most loving, caring, patient and selfless person anyone could ever meet.
‘She was fit and healthy. There was nothing wrong with her.’
Michelle, a mother-of two from Orrell in Wigan, received her first dose of the vaccine on March 7 and was dead within days
Dr Peter Kreppel, a GP at Mesnes View Surgery in Wigan, said Mrs Barlow was put forward for her first dose of the vaccine early due to an error in her records, which stated she was a carer for her husband.
Mr Barlow told the inquest that when his wife contacted the practice to inform them it was a mistake, she was told: ‘Just have the vaccine.’
Had Mrs Barlow not been in that category, she would not have been invited to have the vaccine at that stage, Dr Kreppel said.
However, he said he would still have recommended her taking the vaccine as the risk of thrombosis was 100 times greater without the vaccine than when having taken it.
Dr Mian Ahmed, a consultant physician at Wigan Infirmary, told the hearing it was not until a CT scan on Mrs Barlow’s lungs revealed a blood clot that doctors began to suspect a possible reaction to the vaccine, rather than gastroenteritis.
He said the condition – vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) – was not recognised at the time of her death.
Dr Ahmed said if the same situation arose now, he would prescribe haemoglobin, blood thinners and CT scans sooner for the patient.
He agreed this may have given her a ‘better chance’ but it was a ‘difficult call’.
Marius Paraoan, a surgeon at the hospital, said that after the viewing the CT scan, he concluded that Mrs Barlow’s condition was ‘unsurvivable’.
As well as her husband, Mrs Barlow’s sons, Matthew and Mark, were also present at the hearing alongside other relatives.
Senior coroner Timothy Brennand said he will give his conclusions at the inquest on Friday morning.
What is the risk of getting blood clot after AstraZeneca’s jab?
Earlier this year, British health chiefs recommended all under-40s are offered an alternative to AstraZeneca’s vaccine because of blood clot fears.
According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, as of September 1 there have been 416 cases of VITT and 72 deaths.
But statisticians analysed the numbers and found rates were slightly higher among younger adults, with females appearing to be at most risk, too.
Cambridge academics estimated around 1.9 in every 100,000 twenty-somethings given AstraZeneca’s jab would suffer serious blood clots alongside abnormally low platelet levels (thrombocytopenia) — the specific disorder linked to the jab. For thirty-somethings the figure was 1.5.
They compared that against the average number of Covid intensive care admissions that would be prevented by giving that cohort the jab. And they then analysed the risk/benefit ratio in different scenarios, based entirely on how widespread the disease was at the time.
For example, only 0.2 ICU admissions would be prevented for every 100,000 twenty-somethings given the jab at prevalence levels seen in April (fewer than 30,000 infections per week). For adults in their thirties, the figure was around 0.8.
It showed, however, the benefits of giving AstraZeneca’s vaccine to 40-49 year olds outweighed the potential risk (1.7 prevented ICU admissions per 100,000 people compared to 1.2 blood clots).
But the decision to recommend under-40s are offered Pfizer or Moderna’s jab instead was basically only taken because the outbreak was squashed to extremely low levels, as well as the fact younger people are known to face tiny odds of falling seriously ill with coronavirus.
For older adults, who the disease poses a much greater threat to, the benefits of vaccination are clear, regulators insist. Jabs have already saved around 13,000 lives in England, top scientists believe.
However, because there were so few blood clots, it made it impossible for No10’s vaccine advisory panel to give an exact age cut-off. Instead, they were only able to analyse figures by decade.
The first clots to alarm people were ones appearing in veins near the brains of younger adults in a condition called CSVT (cerebral sinus venous thrombosis).
Since that, however, people have developed clots in other parts of their bodies and they are usually linked to low numbers of platelets, which is unusual because platelets are usually used by the immune system to build the clots.
In most cases people recover fully and the blockages are generally easy to treat if spotted early, but they can trigger strokes or heart or lung problems if unnoticed.
Symptoms depend entirely on where the clot is, with brain blockages causing excruitiating headaches. Clots in major arteries in the abdomen can cause persistent stomach pain, and ones in the leg can cause swelling of the limbs.
Researchers in Germany believe the problem lies in the adenovirus vector — a common cold virus used so both vaccines can enter the body.
Academics investigating the issue say the complication is ‘completely absent’ in mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s because they have a different delivery mechanism.
Experts at Goethe-University of Frankfurt and Ulm University, in Helmholtz, say the AstraZeneca vaccine enters the nucleus of the cell – a blob of DNA in the middle. For comparison, the Pfizer jab enters the fluid around it that acts as a protein factory.
Bits of coronavirus proteins that get inside the nucleus can break up and the unusual fragments then get expelled out into the bloodstream, where they can trigger clotting in a tiny number of people, scientists claim.