WHO and EMA urge continued use of AstraZeneca shot despite concerns

The World Health Organization has reaffirmed the absence of any link between the COVID-19 vaccine and blood clotting in patients.  In a statement, the WHO pointed out no evidence of incidents caused by the vaccine.

The global body instead urged for further vaccination campaigns so lives can be saved and cases of severe disease from the virus are curbed. The head of the EMA described their position as “firmly convinced” in the benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Countries that halted AstraZeneca use

On Saturday, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Latvia, and Sweden joined several other EU countries in halting its further rollout. Reports of Denmark and Norway reporting isolated cases of blood clotting, bleeding and a drop in the number of platelets convinced several countries to hit the pause button. Bulgaria and Iceland also stopped their use while Italy and Austria froze the use of certain batches - Germany, France, Italy, and Spain included.

However, EU regulators differ and deny any blame on the part of the vaccine. Thailand and South Africa also delayed the rollout of the vaccine. Indonesia delayed administering the shot until they received direction on the blood clot issue from the WHO. 

Facing increasing pressure over its endorsement of the jab, the global health body said that it will review reports related to the shot but remains unlikely to change its position. Last month, it advocated for widespread use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, including in places where the South African variant is present. 

AstraZeneca was the third vaccine to be developed after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. In places like Canada, the country’s health regulator (NACI) has authorized the use of AstraZeneca to people who are 65 years and above. 

What do we know about AstraZeneca?

Clinical trials gave a 62 percent effectiveness in the prevention of Covid-19 infections. Most importantly, it prevented death and hospitalization in all participants. During its approval, there were several concerns over efficacy with some contrasting it to the 95 percent efficacy shown by mRNA vaccine trials in Moderna and Pfizer. Nevertheless, experts stress that all the authorized vaccines offer excellent protection from a serious illness. 

Real-world data is also showing a stronger performance for AstraZeneca when the doses are spread out longer. The clinical trials relied on a four-week interval. Some countries are spreading out the dose to several weeks. 

Does AstraZeneca work against the variants?

Last month the results of a study conducted between October and January on human swabs taken from 500 volunteers to test the efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine, revealed a 74.6 efficacy against the UK variant. A group of immunization experts at the WHO recommended the use of AstraZeneca as early as February. This was in spite of an earlier study in South Africa that showed the vaccine as minimally effective towards the South African variant. 

Does AstraZeneca result in a blood clot?

Despite some recipients in Europe expressing concern over blood clotting, several doubts have been cast on its safety. One of the EU medicine regulators pointed “no indication” of the vaccine bringing about blood clotting. Experts argue that no incidence of blood clotting was witnessed during the clinical trials where thousands of people took part.

Alternatively, they argue that the number of those reporting clots is within the range of those who would get that with or without the vaccine. AstraZeneca said that a review of 17 million people across Europe and the U.K vaccinated with its jab has not shown elevated risks of blood clotting. 

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Wanted in Europe, part of the Wanted Worldwide network, is a website in English for expatriates in Europe established in 2006. We cover Europe's news stories that may be of interest to English speaking residents along with tourists as well. Our publication also offers classifieds, photos, information on events, museums, churches, galleries, exhibits, fashion, food, and local travel.
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