Blood clot concerns: AstraZeneca rejects claims as more countries suspend its COVID-19 vaccine use

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
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The COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca is faced with another hurdle in its global rollout as few countries paused their use of the shot following reports it could be connected to blood clots, despite no clear evidence.

AstraZeneca has robustly defended its vaccine, saying there was “no evidence of an increased risk” of blood clots, and European and UK medicines regulators have each said the link between the vaccine and blood clots has not been confirmed and that rollouts should continue.

Concerned countries suspend the use of vaccine

After a group of European countries, including Denmark, Norway and Iceland, suspended use of the vaccine, Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, canceled plans to publicly get the AstraZeneca shot recently and the country also delayed its rollout.

Bulgaria has become the latest country to suspend use of the vaccine pending investigations into safety. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov ordered a halt to all inoculation using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) “rejects all doubts” about the vaccine’s safety, according to a government statement.

Is blood clot a side effect?

The moves came in response to reports of blood clots in a few inoculated people in Denmark, including one fatality. Denmark was the first country to take the precautionary measure, announcing a 14-day break while authorities investigated further.

Norway and Iceland soon followed. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said the country has also reported cases of blood clots shortly after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in Norway but “mainly in the elderly where there is often another underlying disease as well.” Other countries, including Austria and Italy, have suspended specific batches of the vaccine.

Supporters of the vaccine

But a number of nations, including Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Mexico and Nigeria, stood by the shot and reassured citizens of its safety. EMA and UK’s MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) have also issued statements reassuring their people about the safety of the vaccine.

However, the lack of trust causes another headache for the U-based pharmaceutical giant, whose vaccine had troubles due to political disputes, delivery delays and other concerns.

No evidence

AstraZeneca said that its analysis not only shows “no evidence of an increased risk” of blood clots in vaccine recipients, but demonstrates a lower number than in the general population.

“An analysis of our safety data of more than 10 million records has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca,” the company said in a statement. “In fact, the observed number of these types of events are significantly lower in those vaccinated than would be expected among the general population,” it added.

Real world data

Real-world data has also shown that the vaccine is having a significant impact in reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations. A single dose of the vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 by more than 80 percent in people aged over 80, data showed. The vaccine is given in two doses, though countries differ in how far apart they are spreading those shots.

Related: Countries face the heat from UN Chief over vaccine nationalism


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