AstraZeneca: Expert slams ‘nonsense’ claims about vaccine
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A wave of European Union (EU) countries have moved to suspend AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on Monday, ignoring the advice of the bloc’s own medicines regulator, the EMA. France was the latest to join the string of countries banning the vaccine as the country said the jab will be suspended until at least Tuesday afternoon. Germany did the same indefinitely following emerging reports of blood clots. Italy changed its mind after its drugs regular said on Sunday evening the vaccine is safe, and Spain’s health minister announced a pause while waiting for results from the EMA’s assessment. Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden all followed suit.
When is the WHO and EMA’s announcement?
The WHO is urging countries to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine following the reports of blood clots.
The WHO’s global advisory committee on vaccine safety is holding a meeting on Tuesday to discuss recent events.
As it stands, it’s not yet known when an announcement will be made but it’s likely to be at some point during the week. Express.co.uk will update this article when more information is released.
The EMA is also meeting this week, and their objective is to publish further guidance by Thursday.
The EMA’s guidance will likely include steps on how to proceed going forward and assess their findings during the meeting.
However, it’s unlikely a ban on the AstraZeneca vaccine will come into play due to the sheer number of organisations and medical professionals backing the jab.
WHO’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan told a press conference the organisation “do not want people to panic” as she assured no association has been found between the vaccine and blood clots.
The WHO, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the EMA have all said there’s no evidence the jab causes health concerns.
An EMA spokesperson said “many thousands of people develop blood clots annually in the EU for different reasons”, adding the incidence in vaccinated people “seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population”.
According to AstraZeneca, some 17million people in the EU and UK have received a dose of the vaccine, with the overall tally of people developing blood clots amounting to less than 40.
Professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, Peter Openshaw said it would be “a disaster” for the EU’s vaccine uptake if AstraZeneca is banned.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Openshaw said: “I really wouldn’t be worried at the present time.
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“I think it is very clear that the benefits of being vaccinated at the moment so far outweigh the possible concern over this rather rare type of blood lot.
“It really is a completely one-sided argument statistically that we need to be vaccinating [people].
“I think it is a disaster for the vaccination uptake in Europe, which is already on slightly unsteady ground in some countries.”
In the UK, medical and public health experts have defended the use of the vaccine while Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured there was “no reason at all” to halt the rollout.
The Prime Minister insisted the MHRA is “one of the toughest and most experienced regulators in the world”.
He added: “They see no reason at all to discontinue this vaccination programme… for either of the vaccines that we’re currently using.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would accept the AstraZeneca vaccine “without hesitation”.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride also urged people to keep their confidence in the vaccine as he received his first dose of AstraZeneca on Monday.
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