Countries Halting Distribution, Expert Committee Reviewing AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine After Worrying Side Effects Appear
Even amid concerns that have led an increasing number of countries to stop distributing the COVID-19 vaccine produced by AstraZenecaa, the World Health Organization is urging its continued use.
The WHO’s global advisory committee on vaccine safety is reviewing reports of blood clots that have emerged in individuals who have had the shots, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, according to Reuters.
“It is very important we are hearing safety signals because if we were not hearing about safety signals that would suggest there is not enough review and vigilance,” she said.
Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director general, said Friday that the shots are considered safe despite the clot reports, according to The Washington Post.
In some cases, fatalities have been reported from clotting, but no direct link with vaccinations has been proven, The Post reported.
“We should continue immunization until we have clarified the causal relationship,” Simao said, according to The Post.
“People die every day. There will be people who are immunized who die of other causes.”
But that kind of logic is lost on nations that are concerned after reports that three Norwegian health care workers were hospitalized with blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Post noted that fatal blood clots had been reported in individuals who received the vaccine in Austria, Denmark and Italy.
Ireland was one of the latest countries to temporarily stop using the vaccine, ordering a pause in its use on Sunday, according to the U.K.-based Independent.
“The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is already investigating a number of reports of thromboembolic (blood clotting) events following vaccination with Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca,” a statement from the Irish Department of Health said, accordin to the Independent. “Further information is expected from the EMA in the next few days, which will include a review of these additional events.”
Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Austria, Romania and Italy had previously stopped giving the shot. Thailand became the first Asian country to halt the use of the company’s vaccine this past week, CNBC reported.
Roughly five million Europeans have received the vaccine as of this past Wednesday.
Reuters reported that the workers experienced issues relating to blood clots and other vascular issues.
Sigurd Hortemo with the Norwegian Medicines Agency told reporters at a media briefing with members of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health that each of the hospitalized health care workers were under the age of 50, but said the hospitalizations could not be definitively linked to the shot.
Steinar Madsen, the medical director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, told regional media that the affected individuals were very ill after receiving the shots.
“They have very unusual symptoms: bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets,” Madsen said, according to Reuters. “They are quite sick … We take this very seriously.”
Reuters reported that no such issues were reported during the vaccine’s clinical trials.
AstraZeneca defended the vaccine while pointing out that those hospitalized might have experienced their symptoms with or without taking its single-shot vaccine.
“In fact, the reported numbers of these types of events for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca are not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population,” the pharmaceutical giant said in a statement, according to the BBC.
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