Families of people who died after receiving AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine drop legal case

Gareth Eve, husband of former BBC presenter who died after having the shot, is among those who have abandoned plans to sue manufacturer

The AstraZeneca research and development plant in Cambridge, UK. Getty Images
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Families of people who died after receiving AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine have abandoned plans to sue the manufacturer after being told the presence of a small print warning means their case would probably fail.

Gareth Eve, whose BBC radio presenter wife Lisa Shaw died three weeks after receiving her first dose, is among a number of parties who have pulled out of the High Court legal action.

They were told their claim was unlikely to succeed because a leaflet, handed out at vaccination centres, warned of “extremely rare cases of blood clots with low levels of platelets” after vaccination with the AstraZeneca shot.

It is believed the warning, issued on April 7, 2021, could protect AstraZeneca from cases in which relatives died after receiving vaccines beyond that date.

A dozen families have now dropped out of the legal action as a result.

But more than 50 of relatives of people who received the vaccine before the warning was added are continuing with the lawsuit.

AstraZeneca has admitted its vaccines could cause blood clots in “extremely rare cases”, with a risk estimated to be one in 50,000 of developing the potentially deadly complication.

Ms Shaw, 44, a mother of one who worked for BBC Radio Newcastle, developed a blood clot and received treatment, including cutting away part of her skull to reduce the pressure. But it did not work and she died in May 2021.

A coroner concluded she “died due to complications of an AstraZeneca Covid vaccine”, due to vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia in August of that year.

The condition results in swelling and bleeding in the brain.

Her husband, Mr Eve, told The Telegraph it was “unjust” that he and other families of relatives who died after the warning was issued could not continue.

He said was been left feeling “utterly bereft”.

“It’s like the government and AstraZeneca have wriggled off the hook on a technicality when you just think, ‘come on, what is the right thing to do here?’

“In my opinion, there is a battle here that needs to be had, but I’m not even able to do that any more.

“If I didn’t remove my name from the legal action, I wouldn’t be covered by the insurance. I could be liable for the drug company’s costs, which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

He and other families were offered £120,000 ($150,700) compensation from the government for the loss of their loved ones.

And he reiterated calls for the government to “sit down and have a conversation” with families such as his.

“AstraZeneca and the government might not have a legal obligation to support us, but they have a moral responsibility,” he said.

The World Health Organisation said the vaccine was “safe and effective at protecting people from the extremely serious risks of Covid-19, including death, hospitalisation and severe disease”.

While acknowledging the “very rare” risk of blood-clotting complications, WHO said the benefit of inoculation with the shot “far outweighs the risks”.

The UK taxpayer will have to cover any compensation awarded to victims’ families under legal indemnity granted to AstraZeneca early in the pandemic.

Father of two Jamie Scott, who suffered a permanent brain injury as a result of a blood clot and bleeding on the brain after receiving the vaccine in April 2021, was the first to lodge a case against the company. He has been unable to work since.

His wife Kate told The Telegraph: “This could have been any of us. We will continue fighting to ensure every family – regardless of the date the vaccine caused death and injury – get justice”.

Sarah Moore, a partner at law firm Leigh Day, which is bringing the legal claims, said: “We feel desperately sorry for Gareth [Eve] and the other families affected.

“These cases should not have to be fought through the courts. If there was a functioning support scheme, then litigation wouldn’t be necessary”.

AstraZeneca told The Telegraph: “Our sympathy goes out to anyone who has lost loved ones or reported health problems. Patient safety is our highest priority and regulatory authorities have clear and stringent standards to ensure the safe use of all medicines, including vaccines.

“From the body of evidence in clinical trials and real-world data, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has continuously been shown to have an acceptable safety profile and regulators around the world consistently state that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of extremely rare potential side effects.”

Updated: May 03, 2024, 10:59 AM