THE BAJA POST
Sweden on Tuesday became the latest to join a growing list of countries to suspend use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. More than a dozen nations, most of them in Europe, have temporarily halted use of the vaccine as a precautionary measure after a small number of people developed blood clots after getting the shot.
But experts in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe are calling it a disaster for the continent’s already-delayed vaccine roll-out. COVID-19 infections are spreading exponentially again in some parts of Europe, even prompting new nationwide lockdowns.
British drug regulators and AstraZeneca executives insist there is no link between the Oxford University-developed vaccine and a higher incidence of blood clots. The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company that teamed up with the prestigious university to produce the drug has said that a review of 17 million people in the U.K. and Europe who’ve received the vaccine found that fewer than 40 developed blood clots — «even lower than you’d expect to find in the general population,» AstraZeneca said.
The incidence of clotting is similar to that seen with all vaccines, including the Moderna and Pfizer formulas currently being used in the U.S. Denmark, Iceland and Norway were among the first to halt use of the Oxford University-developed vaccine on March 11. The following day, Thailand abruptly slammed the brakes on the vaccine just before it was set to be rolled out.
That decision was reversed on Tuesday as the Thai Prime Minister got his first dose of the vaccine and urged his fellow That is to do the same. Bulgaria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain have also decided to suspend use of the vaccine, with some saying they would wait at least until the European Medicines Agency — the EU’s pharmaceutical regulator — issues new guidance on the vaccine it approved weeks ago. The agency’s expert panel was gathering Tuesday to review data on clots.
Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Luxembourg have all suspended use of at least one batch of AstraZeneca vaccines delivered to various nations. The drug’s maker has been adamant that there’s no data to suggest any link between its vaccine and any serious side effects, and several independent health authorities have backed up that stance.
The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization both said last week that there was no evidence the drug is causing clots.
«An analysis of our safety data of more than 10 million records has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country,» an AstraZeneca spokesman said. «In fact, the observed number of these types of events are significantly lower in those vaccinated than what would be expected among the general population.»
Officials from the European Medicines Agency stressed last week that «there is currently no indication that vaccination causes these conditions,» and «the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered.»
On Monday, however, German officials said the pan-EU agency was expected to decide later in the week «whether and how the new information will affect the authorization of the vaccine.»
Britain’s pharmaceuticals regulator issued fresh backing on Monday for the vaccine, which has been widely used for weeks across the U.K.
Dr. Phil Bryan, head of vaccine safety for the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said people «should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so.» «We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of [AstraZeneca] doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause,» he said, according to the BBC.
Even the countries that have paused the use of the vaccine in Europe have said there’s no evidence the clots were caused by the AstraZeneca shot — only that they occurred after it was administered. The head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Andrew Pollard, said real-world data from the U.K.’s mass-vaccination program recently showed a 94% drop in hospital admissions for those who have received the Oxford vaccine — even more impressive figures than with the Pfizer formula.