A probe was earlier launched by the EU after the European Medicines Agency said it had received reports of 22 cases of blood clotting among those vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab in continental Europe – including one person who died ten days later.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday dismissed growing concerns regarding the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus jab after cases of blood clotting were reported in vaccinated people, urging Britons to continue taking it.
“We’ve been clear that it’s both safe and effective, and when people are asked to come forward and take it, they should do so in confidence,” a spokesman for Downing Street was cited by the Daily Mail as saying.
The Prime Minister also hailed the success of the vaccination program across the nation.
“And in fact you’re starting to see the results of the vaccine program in terms of the (lower) number of cases we’re seeing across the country, the number of deaths, number of hospitalizations,” added Johnson’s spokesman.
As over 11 million doses of the Oxford jab have been administered in the UK, Dr. Phil Bryan, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) head of vaccines safety was quoted by the outlet as saying:
“Reports of blood clots received so far are not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population. The safety of the public will always come first. We are keeping this issue under close review but available evidence does not confirm that the vaccine is the cause.”
Blood clotting scare
This comes after a number of countries earlier moved to halt the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab amid an EU-launched probe into reports of blood clots in vaccinated Europeans.
22 cases of blood clotting had been registered so far by the European Medicines Agency among the three million given the shot on the continent, with a nurse in Austria, 49, having died from a clot on 8 March, reported Reuters.
Despite millions of doses of the vaccine being administered safely, concerns spiralled, with Denmark becoming the first to announce its suspension of the vaccine for 14 days as a ‘precautionary’ move, ‘following reports of serious cases of blood clots’ among people who had received the vaccine, stated the country’s Health Authority.
The nation suspended the shots after a 60-year-old woman who received an AstraZeneca jab from the same batch – ABV5300 – used in Austria, formed a blood clot and died.
Defending the move of the Danish health authorities, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters:
“Things have gone well in Denmark, but there are some risks linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine that need to be examined more closely. That seems to me to be the right way to proceed.”
While also using vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, Denmark is set to receive 2.6 million doses from AstraZeneca over the coming months.
A host of European countries, such as Norway and Iceland, have taken similar moves, blocking the use of AstraZeneca jabs. Italy suspended a different batch, designated ABV2856, after the death of a non-commissioned naval officer of cardiac arrest 24 hours after receiving a dose, followed by the death of another person.
Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg have suspended the use of the specific batch of AstraZeneca vaccine linked with the fatal case in Austria. That consignment had been sent to 17 European countries.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and members of his cabinet cancelled on Friday plans to receive AstraZeneca vaccine shots after the country delayed use of the vaccines over reports of blood clots in some European nations, a health official said at a health ministry news conference.
However, other countries have decided to refrain from drastic moves regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran said at a Thursday news conference that after he consulted with the French medicines agency he decided there was ‘no need’ to suspend use of the jab.
Other European nations, including Sweden, Spain and The Netherlands, have claimed they did not find sufficient evidence to halt vaccination with the AstraZeneca’s jab.
“There is nothing to indicate that the vaccine causes this type of blood clots,” stated Veronica Arthurson, head of drug safety at the Swedish Medical Products Agency, at a news conference.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently made a U-turn regarding the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Macron had sparked a row after claiming earlier that the jab was ‘quasi-effective’ in over-65s – something that was widely dismissed by scientists – leading to France and a host of other European nations blocking the use of the jab for the elderly.
However, French PM Jean Castex has since endorsed the jab, conceding that it was as effective as any other vaccine approved in the EU.
Germany has also recommended the shot for the over-65s.
‘Benefits outweigh risks’
On 23 November 2020 the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca announced the completion of its COVID-19 vaccine’s successful trial, claiming it prevented 70 percent of people from developing symptoms of the respiratory disease.
In January 2021, India approved the use of the Oxford–AstraZeneca jab, with EU regulators following suit on 30 January.
Following the recent developments, AstraZeneca sought to allay concerns regarding its vaccine on Thursday.
“Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in Phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine is generally well-tolerated,” the company said in a statement.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) added that the vaccine’s benefits “continue to outweigh its risks”.
“The vaccine can continue to be administered while the investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing,” stated the EMA.
The European Medicines Agency insisted there was ‘no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions (clots), which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine’. It has since launched a probe into the quality of the ABV5300 batch.