The family of an Italian woman who died weeks after having the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine have told Sky News they are taking legal action to establish whether the jab was to blame.
The case comes after 55-year-old Augusta Turiaco, from Messina, Sicily, received her COVID jab on 11 March before her condition worsened in the days following her vaccination.
The music teacher was keen to receive a jab as she worked with young people and even expressed her joy at getting the dose in a Facebook post, writing “fatto” – the Italian word for “done”. Despite feeling unwell afterwards, she returned to work, posting two days later to reassure worried friends saying: “Andra tutto bene” – “everything will be alright”. Sadly it was not to be.
She developed a high temperature and a very bad headache, before going for blood tests and ultimately scans that identified blood clots. She fell into a coma on 28 March and died on 30 March – 19 days after having the AstraZeneca injection. Her brother Nunzio Turiaco told Sky News: “For us it was a bolt from the blue that such a clinical picture occurred. “My sister was in excellent health, she did not take drugs because she did not have diseases such as hypertension or diabetes.”
Medical records seen by Sky News showed blood clots had formed in Ms Turiaco’s body, including in her brain. Her platelet levels had fallen. These are conditions also found in others who died after having the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The legal proceedings launched by the family are just one of a number of cases across Europe being mounted against AstraZeneca.
The family’s lawyer, Daniela Agnello, told Sky News: “The excellent state of health of Ms Turiaco, the absence of previous pathologies, the very short period of time between the administration of the vaccine, the appearance of the first illnesses and the very serious clinical picture and then death.
“We believe that they are all precise, serious and consistent clues to request judicial investigations and to identify any direct or indirect, causal responsibilities that led to the death.” Our request for an interview with AstraZeneca was declined. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has now changed its advice to say unusual blood clots should be identified as a very rare side effect of the vaccine.
Immunologist Professor Michel Goldman, who is president of the Institute for Healthcare Innovation in Brussels, said scientific work must be carried out to establish who is at most risk and why. But he stressed with all vaccines there is a balance of risk and benefit and the cases of blood clots after the AstraZeneca vaccine are extremely unusual. “This risk was completely unpredictable and there are precedents in the history of vaccines,” he said. “You know, some very, very rare events cannot be predicted by animal studies, cannot be predicted even when thousands of people are enrolled in clinical trials. “Sometimes you need to give the medicine to millions of people before a very low number of cases occur.”
Professor Goldman continued: “I think it’s always important to realise how rare these events are – one out of 100,000. “And you have to put this in balance with the very high risk of getting coronavirus, to be hospitalised because of it, to end up in an intensive care unit.” The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is still being rolled out across much of Europe, but publicity about blood clots has affected confidence in it.
Denmark became the first country to announce it would stop using it completely. Other nations have suspended use of the vaccine while studies are being carried out and some countries, including the UK, are now limiting its use to certain age groups.
Ms Turiaco’s family insist they support Europe’s vaccination programme, but say they want to know what happened to her to help ensure no one else dies after treatment designed to protect them. Her brother Nunzio said it was important to remember those who have died. “They are people, who are mothers, someone’s daughters and someone’s sisters,” he said.