AstraZeneca Defends Covid-19 Vaccine Safety As The Netherlands, Ireland Join Others In Suspending Use

AstraZeneca on Sunday insisted that is Covid-19 vaccine was safe citing a review of safety data from inoculated people which found no evidence of increased risk of blood clots, as the Netherlands and Ireland became the latest countries who have suspended the use of the vaccine following reports of possible side effects including blood clots.

KEY FACTS

The Netherlands announced on Sunday that the use of the AstraZeneca jab will be suspended at least till March 29 as a precaution after reports of unexpected possible side effects in Denmark and Norway.

While no cases of blood clotting were reported in the Netherlands there was no proof yet of a direct link between the vaccine and blood clots, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said, “we can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine.”

Ireland also temporarily suspended the use of the shots following the reports from Norway noting the move was a precaution as no direct link had been established between the vaccine and the adverse events.

Insisting its vaccine is safe, AstraZeneca said it had reviewed safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the U.K. and found no evidence of an “increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country,” Reuters reported.

Apart from the Netherlands and Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Thailand have also temporarily suspended rollout of the vaccine while Austria has stopped using a particular batch of the shots.

BIG NUMBER

30 million. That’s the number of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the U.S. government has purchased, the New York Times reported. However, the vaccine is yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is still undergoing phase-three clinical trials.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

Although the World Health Organization has said it is investigating the reports of blood clots its Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said: “it remains unclear if the vaccine is causing the blood clots.” She then added, “The adverse events which are reported after vaccination have to be seen in the context of events which occur naturally in the population. Just because it’s reported following a vaccination doesn’t mean that it’s because of the vaccination. It could be completely unrelated.”

KEY BACKGROUND

Last week, Austria stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca shots while investigating the death of a 49-year-old woman who died from blood clots 10 days after being administered the vaccine. Responding to the development the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that a preliminary probe found that there was no indication that the vaccine caused the clotting or the death.

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, developed in conjunction with Oxford University, has faced more scrutiny than its three other western counterparts developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. While trials have shown it to be safe, well-tolerated and effective in preventing disease, phase three trials that included confusion about the use of two separate dosing regimens has led to some bad press.

While the vaccine was backed enthusiastically by the U.K. government—which had helped fund its development—European regulators initially held off on authorizing the vaccine for people older than 65 due to a lack of adequate testing data on the cohort. Though this decision was later reversed, the flip flop and bad press has dented public confidence in the shot which has forced German authorities to plead with people to take the vaccine.

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