AMSTERDAM / LONDON (Reuters) – Germany, France and other European nations announced plans to resume use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday after British and EU regulators acted to bolster confidence in the vaccine, saying that its benefits outweigh the risks.
Reports of rare blood clots in the brain had prompted more than a dozen countries to discontinue use of the injection, the latest challenge to AstraZeneca’s ambition to produce a “vaccine for the world,” as the global figure deaths from the coronavirus exceed 2.8 million.
The “clear” conclusion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after an investigation of 30 cases of unusual blood disorders was that the benefits of the vaccine to protect people from death or hospitalization related to the coronavirus outweigh the possible risks Although he said a link between the blood clots in the brain and the shooting could not be definitively ruled out.
“This is a safe and effective vaccine,” EMA Director Emer Cooke said in a briefing. “If it was me, they would vaccinate me tomorrow.”
Within hours, Germany said it would resume the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Friday morning. Health Minister Jens Spahn said stopping the vaccine as a precaution had been the right decision “until the cluster of this very rare type of thrombosis was examined.”
France also said it would resume use of the vaccine, with Prime Minister Jean Castex saying that he would receive the injection himself on Friday afternoon.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy would do the same and his government’s priority remained to vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible.
Spain said it was evaluating a possible resumption, while Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania said they would restart the administration of the vaccine.
Many governments had said that the decision to stop vaccines was due to great caution. But experts have warned that political interference could undermine public confidence in vaccines as governments scramble to domesticate more variants of infectious viruses.
“We are confident that, after careful decisions by regulators, vaccines can be resumed once again across Europe,” Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.
EUROPE LAGS GREAT BRITAIN, USA
The EMA review covered 20 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA), which links 30 European countries.
Safety concerns had led at least 13 European countries to stop giving the injection, slowing down an already faltering inoculation campaign in the EU, trailing Britain and the United States.
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) previously said it was investigating five cases of the rare cerebral blood clot that had been reported from the 11 million injections given in the UK.
He said he would investigate reports of clots in the cerebral veins (sinus vein thrombosis or CSVT) that occur along with low platelets shortly after vaccination. But the agency said use of the vaccine should continue, and one official said Britain’s launch would likely continue even if a link was proven.
The AstraZeneca injection was one of the first and cheapest of the COVID-19 vaccines to be developed and launched on a large scale and is expected to be the mainstay of vaccination programs in much of the developing world.
“The EMA (verdict) now provides clarity on the safety of this vaccine, which must now be vaccinated at a high rate after this safety stop to efficiently prevent the real risk, that is, sometimes serious medical harm from Covid-19, “said Clemens Wendtner, head of infectious diseases at the Schwabing clinic in Munich.
The pharmacist’s own review that covered more than 17 million people who received their injection in the EU and Britain found no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.
The World Health Organization also reaffirmed its support for the vaccine this week.
The EMA said it would update its AstraZeneca vaccine guidance to include an explanation for patients about potential risks and information for healthcare professionals.
The agency said it is in contact with regulators around the world to monitor the possible side effects of all COVID-19 vaccines.
Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt, Kate Kelland and Alistair Smout in London and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Written by Josephine Mason, Elaine Hardcastle, and Nick Tattersall; Edited by Bill Berkrot