The EU’s medicines regulator said
Tuesday there was so far “no indication” the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood
clots, urging countries to keep using the jab after many suspended
distribution despite new surges in infections.
The suspensions have led to intense debate over whether it was prudent
to put AstraZeneca inoculations on hold just as vaccination campaigns begin
to gather pace in many countries.
Experts at both the World Health Organisation and EU regulator EMA are
meeting Tuesday to discuss the vaccine, with the European agency expected to
publish conclusions Thursday.
While millions of doses of the vaccine developed with Oxford University
have been administered, small numbers of people have developed blood clots,
prompting countries including the European Union’s three largest nations
Germany, France and Italy to suspend injections.
“At present there is no indication that vaccination has caused these
conditions,” EMA chief Emer Cooke told an online press conference, echoing
the World Health Organization and drugmaker AstraZeneca itself.
Cooke noted however that the regulator was “looking at adverse events
associated with all vaccines.”
Meanwhile deaths across the continent have topped 900,000, making it the
worst-hit global region in absolute terms, according to an AFP tally from
In Britain, which has administered more than 11 million AstraZeneca
doses and where experts see no evidence of more frequent blood clots among
the inoculated, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in the Times newspaper
that the shot “is safe and works extremely well”.
And Poland’s vaccination chief Michal Dworczyk charged that those
suspending vaccination “have succumbed to the panic caused by media coverage
of alleged complications”.
But French immunologist Alain Fischer, who heads a government
vaccination advisory board, said a higher number than normal of pulmonary
embolisms — blood clots in the lungs — had caused alarm at the weekend.
“There were a few very unusual and troubling cases which justify this
pause and the analysis,” Fischer told France Inter radio.
“It’s not lost time.”
– Doubts hit global rollout –
AstraZeneca’s shot, among the cheapest available, was billed as the
vaccine of choice for poorer nations and the clot reports have had an impact
Indonesia delayed its AstraZeneca rollout on Monday, and Venezuela
announced it would not authorise the jab over fears of “complications”.
In Ukraine, even medical staff were succumbing to doubts, which were
already widespread among the public before the blood clot scare.
“Out of 40 people who initially wanted to be vaccinated, only 10 still
do,” said Dr Yuriy Shylenko of his colleagues at a Kiev hospital.
But in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged citizens to get the
AstraZeneca shot after reports of hesitancy based on the suspensions.
And Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha was himself injected Tuesday
as his country lifted its own AstraZeneca suspension.
“I am an example today,” he said.
– ‘Critical situation’ –
The AstraZeneca debate comes as a number of countries battle worrying
Norway’s capital Oslo announced tougher measures, including closing
secondary schools, as it reported a record number of cases last week.
And a fresh spike pushed the main Covid-19 hospital in Bosnia to the
edge, forcing it to declare a state of emergency.
“The staff is exhausted” and “more and more of our employees are sick,”
hospital director Sebija Izetbegovic wrote on Facebook.
Most of Italy re-entered lockdown on Monday, with schools, restaurants,
shops and museums closed, while intensive care doctors in Germany issued an
urgent appeal for new restrictions to avoid a third wave in the country.
– Vaccine options –
The pandemic spurred unprecedented efforts to develop vaccines, with a
number of successful options now available.
Rollouts have been hampered, however, by export controls, bitter
diplomatic spats and production issues — in addition to the AstraZeneca
But a new agreement for Germany’s IDT Biologika to help produce the
single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine would offer Europe greater certainty,
Germany’s economy minister said Monday.
The developers of Russia’s successful Sputnik V vaccine also said they
had reached production agreements in key European countries.
And on Tuesday Brussels sealed a deal to step up deliveries of 10
million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, now scheduled to arrive in the
EU before July rather than in the third quarter.
China, where the virus first emerged in late 2019, has also developed
Covid-19 vaccines and begun exporting them.
Its embassy in the US was one of several worldwide to say it would begin
to process “visa applicants inoculated with Chinese Covid-19 vaccines”.
China has largely brought its outbreak under control, but maintains
strict travel restrictions and has yet to approve any foreign-made shots.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)