Health services in London have seen no cases of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the capital’s joint Chief Nurse Martin Machray, speaking at today’s meeting of the London Assembly Health Committee.
“There have been 2.75 million doses of the vaccine given with no reports of blood clots,” he told AMs, with the AstraZeneca jab making up the bulk of the vaccines administered. “If there was an associated blood clot we would know about it. We continue to believe that this is a safe vaccine.”
The assurance from the senior NHS London official came at the end of a wide-ranging discussion of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health inequalities in the capital, where some 700,000 people have been infected by the virus and more than 17,000 have died.
The pandemic has not been a “great leveller”, City Hall health adviser Dr Tom Coffey told the committee. “The people who have died were our poorest Londoners.”
And public health expert professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of University College London’s Institute of Health Equity and author of the influential “Marmot” reviews on public health, told the committee that pre-existing inequalities had contributed to widening health gaps and unequal impacts during the pandemic.
“We weren’t very healthy before,” he said, with public service cuts between 2010 and 2020 coupled with the government’s “ham-fisted” management of the crisis contributing to excess mortality – prompting the Assembly’s Conservative group leader Susan Hall to suggest to the professor of epidemiology that “people might be wondering if he was actually a left-wing activist having a go at the government”.
Committee chair Onkar Sahota warned members they should be “respectful to all guests”, while Marmot himself said that he argued from the “evidence” not from political preconceptions, and spoke with all political parties. “You can call me whatever you like,” he told Hall, adding that City Hall could consider working with his institute to address health inequality.
Meanwhile Dr Coffey and Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England regional director for London (pictured), highlighted the need for continuing work to tackle obesity among children and adults and defended Sadiq Khan’s ban on “junk food” advertising on the capital’s transport network, introduced in early 2019.
Tory AM Andrew Boff, who at that time described the ban as a “publicity stunt”, said there was still no evidence that the ban was working.
“If you go down to London Bridge station where advertising of junk food is banned you can buy yourself a nice cupcake or a doughnut as you go through the gates,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like a very consistent policy. We should be focussing on what we know works and on those communities that have the greatest problems.”
But the ban was a critical part of a “comprehensive approach” to tackling obesity, said Fenton. “We have emerging evidence globally that points to the importance of limiting advertising of high fat, high sugar products. Advertising works. If it didn’t work, companies wouldn’t invest in it.”
Diet was more significant than exercise, he added. “We cannot exercise our way out of the obesity crisis”. Advertisers had switched to promoting healthier products, while the government was itself now restricting high fat, high sugar advertising, Dr Coffey said, adding that the impact of the policy was being assessed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
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