AstraZeneca vaccine comes under further pressure in EU, UK

Cornelia Mascio
Aprile 8, 2021

The regulator said this was not proof the jab had caused the clots.

But it said the link was getting firmer.

The agency added it was reminding healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within two weeks of vaccination.

A number of European Union countries had made a decision to put temporary age restrictions on the jab in the run-up to the EMA review, however.

Analysis: Should we be anxious about a one-in-a-million risk?

Several European countries are considering mixing COVID-19 vaccines for citizens who received a first dose of AstraZeneca's shot, an unprecedented move highlighting the challenge for governments struggling to tame rising infections.

For example, travelling 250 miles in a auto also carries with it a one-in-a-million chance of dying in an accident. How many think about that when they get behind the wheel?

The MHRA said there was a "strong possibility" that the AstraZeneca vaccine is driving the unsafe clotting although more work was needed to establish "beyond all doubt" that the vaccine causes clotting.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the AstraZeneca vaccine had "already saved thousands of lives" and the new advice should ensure people of all ages "continue to have full confidence in vaccines".

However, on Wednesday issued a reccommendation that those under 30 should no longer receive the AstraZeneca vaccine but added if people had one shot of it they should not switch vaccines. The risk of hospitalization or death for younger people as a result of COVID is far lower than for the elderly.

"Vaccines will help us in the fight against COVID and we need to continue to use these vaccines", she said.

"PRAC feels that the overall benefits outweigh the risks", she concluded.

She added: "The public's safety is at the forefront of our minds".

Officials said there had been been 79 reports of suspected blood clots with low platelets up to and including March 31. But higher rates in countries that began using AstraZeneca's vaccine only among younger people have spurred debate as to whether the risks might be higher for certain age groups or for women.

"We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group", said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines, said the risks had to be weighed against the consequences of Covid-19, which also causes clotting. However, the body sometimes does not take kindly to attempts to thin the blood and the immune system will kick in, creating antibodies which actually increase deadly clots which can travel to veins or the brain.

The UK has handed out more than over 37 million COVID-19 vaccine doses including BioNTech-Pfizer and AstraZeneca's jabs (31.6 million first doses and almost 5.5 million second shots).

Anyone who suffers symptoms such as a persistent headache, blurred vision or confusion for four days or more after vaccination or who experience unusual skin bruising, shortness of breath or chest pain are being asked to seek medical advice.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd has repeatedly downplayed the significance of the side effect.

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