THE HAGUE: The EU’s medicines regulator said Wednesday that blood clots should be listed as a rare side effect of the AstraZeneca jab but the benefits continue to outweigh risks, as several countries battle fresh virus surges amid vaccine shortfalls.
A number of nations have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger populations after it was earlier banned outright in several places over blood clot scares.
The United Kingdom on Wednesday said that people under the age of 30 should choose alternatives to the vaccine, after reporting 19 deaths from clots among people who received the shot.
The back-and-forth over the vaccine comes as countries from Germany to Ukraine and India face new waves of infections and deaths from the virus that has now killed more than 2.8 million people globally.
Governments are scrambling to secure much-needed vaccine doses, with Australia the latest nation to complain of shortages that it blamed on EU export controls.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said Wednesday that blood clots should be listed as a “very rare” side effect, encouraging countries to continue its use. The announcement came after the EMA examined 86 blood clotting cases, 18 of which were fatal, out of around 25 million people in Europe who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Most of the cases were in women aged under 60.
The World Health Organization’s vaccine experts on Wednesday echoed EMA’s findings, saying a causal relationship between the vaccine and blood clots was “plausible but is not confirmed”. Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands are among several countries that are not recommending the shot for younger people.
Britain urged people under 30 to use other vaccines besides AstraZeneca, after reporting 79 blood clots and 19 deaths among 20 million doses given. It did not say how many people had been given the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed support for a snap lockdown to stem rising cases, after decentralised measures failed to quell outbreaks. Hard-hit France imposed tighter measures this week, while Ukraine on Wednesday reported record new deaths and hospitalisations after tightening measures in the capital.
India, which registered a 24-hour record of almost 116,000 new cases on Wednesday, said it too would rollout tougher curbs with new curfews in place in 20 cities, including the capital New Delhi.