Culture

The Risk Of Blood Clots For Women Taking The Pill Are Much Higher Than The COVID-19 Vaccine

A number of European countries have halted the AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out over fears of blood clots, yet women on the pill fear them daily.

astrazeneca blood clots contraceptive pill

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Over the last week, a number of countries have made the decision to suspend the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears that side-effects of the shot include blood clots.

Over a dozen European countries, including France, Italy and Spain, have hit pause on the distribution and administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a mere 37 of the more than 17 million vaccinated across the EU and UK had reported cases of blood clot-related health conditions. It should be noted that Australia currently has no plans to stop the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

AstraZeneca shared that there were only 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and another 22 of pulmonary embolism reported in those vaccinated. Within these 37 cases, blood clots had led to the deaths of one in Austria, one in Denmark, and two in Italy.

However, Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca Chief Medical Officer, explained that “the number of cases of blood clots reported in [the 17 million vaccinated] is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population.”

Even the European Medicines Agency (EMA) supported this claim, by stating that there is “currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine”.

However, these 37 cases have instilled enough fear in people for a number of countries to completely stop the vaccination process for a virus that has infected 121 million and killed 2.67 million.

In the general population, blood clots, which are dangerous because they block circulation, are very common. Cambridge statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter explained that deep vein thrombosis actually happens to one in 1,000 people a year, regardless of age.

“So, out of those 17 million jabs, we would expect at least 17,000 of those people to get a deep vein thrombosis sometime in the year,” Professor Spiegelhalter told Channel 4. 

“So that means that there will have been – and you can pretty well guarantee it – 350 people who have had an AstraZeneca jab then had a deep vein thrombosis in the week following that,” he continued. “I think what’s surprising is that only 15 have been reported as a possible adverse effect.”

But this entire conversation around such a minuscule blood clot risk entirely ignores the issues that women face daily: blood clots are an everyday fear for those who take the contraceptive pill.

It’s widely known that the contraceptive pill — a pill women use not only for contraception but for cramp reduction, period regulation, and lowering the risk of ectopic pregnancies, along with managing conditions like PCOS and endometriosis — comes with a multitude of side-effects. These side-effects include weight gain, acne, mood changes, headaches, irregular bleeding, and most notably, an increased risk of blood clots.

In fact, certain birth control pills actually “increase a woman’s risk of developing a blood clot by two to four times”, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This bigger risk comes down to the pill increasing estrogen in the body to prevent ovulation, which can promote blood clot formation in the body.

Sadly, despite these blood clot risks being known, women have been conditioned to just accept, and live with, this side-effect.

When male birth control was trialed in 2016, through a two-hormone injection to lower sperm count, the project ended after it was found that the contraceptive had too many reported side effects.

Despite the test shots working to significantly reduce sperm count in men involved in the study with a 96 percent effectiveness, too many men were dropping out of the trial. This is because some men involved in the trial complained of acne, mood swings, and in some cases depression, which are all very common side-effects that women deal with while on the contraceptive pill.

Yet, while the male pill trial was stopped after complaints, women have been forced to simply just deal with the side-effects of the contraceptive pill without any real attempts to adjust the formula to our benefit. Similarly, despite blood clots being such a prevalent issue for those taking the contraceptive pill, countries have not paused pill distribution to wait for reviews on safety — as has been done with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, it should be noted that this isn’t necessarily a women vs men issue. Instead, the rapid response to the blood clots found in those who have taken the AstraZeneca vaccine is a prime example of how gendered healthcare inequality continues to disadvantage women who constantly deal with health problems.

Health problems, like blood clots, that are apparently only seen as issues when men are affected, too.


Michelle Rennex is a senior writer at Junkee. She fears blood clots because she’s on the pill, not because of the COVID-19 vaccine. She tweets at @michellerennex.