The UK’s medical regulator said on Saturday that of 30 people who suffered rare blood clots after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, seven have died.
British recognition of the deaths comes as several European countries have stopped the use of the AstraZeneca jab because of a possible link to blood clots.
The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement that “of the 30 reports up to and including March 24, sadly 7 have died.”
The thrombosis reports, submitted by doctors or members of the public through a government website, came after 18.1 million doses of the vaccine were administered in the country.
Most of the cases (22) were a rare clotting condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. In eight cases, people suffered from other types of thrombosis combined with low levels of platelets in the blood, which help the blood to clot.
There were no reports of blood clots from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the UK regulator said, adding that “our comprehensive review of these reports is ongoing.”
But MHRA CEO Dr. June Raine emphasized that the benefits far outweigh any risks. “The public should continue to receive their vaccine when invited to do so,” he said.
Europe update expected
Both the MHRA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) say a causal link between the blood clotting case and the AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been established.
But growing concerns have led several countries to halt the launch of the vaccine or limit it to older people due to the relatively young age of those who suffered blood clots.
The Netherlands on Friday halted vaccines with the AstraZeneca jab for people under the age of 60 after five new cases among younger women, one of whom died.
Germany has suspended use of the vaccine for those under 60 after 31 cases of blood clots, most of them among young and middle-aged women.
Several other countries, including France, have imposed similar age restrictions, while Denmark and Norway have suspended all use of the vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which like the World Health Organization previously declared the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, is expected to announce updated advice on the subject on April 7.
He said Wednesday that there have been 62 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis worldwide, 44 of them in the European Economic Area, which includes the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
However, this figure did not include all cases from Germany.
Over 9.2 million AstraZeneca jabs have been delivered in the region.
The EMA said it believes the vaccine is safe and that experts have not found specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history.
‘Weight of the evidence’
Paul Hunter, a medical microbiologist at the British University of East Anglia, told AFP that he had initially thought that the link between vaccination and blood clots would likely be a “random association.”
As evidence from groups in separate countries increases, “the weight of evidence now points to Oxford-AstraZeneca actually being the cause of these adverse events,” he said.
However, the risk of the unvaccinated dying from Covid is “substantially higher,” he said.
An AstraZeneca spokeswoman told AFP that patient safety is her “top priority.”
Regulatory bodies in the UK, the EU and the World Health Organization have concluded that the benefits “significantly outweigh the risks in all adult age groups,” he said.
AstraZeneca said last month, following efficacy trials in the US, that its vaccine is 76 percent effective in preventing disease. He also said that data from the EU and the UK did not show an increased risk of blood clots.
The UK has administered more than 31 million first doses of vaccines, using both Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech injections. People cannot choose which one to buy.
The UK in June 2020 ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and supported its development. He also ordered 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the same year.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)