The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that there was no reason to stop using AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine. This comes after several European countries suspended the vaccine rollout over fears of blood clot.
"AstraZeneca is an excellent vaccine, as are the other vaccines that are being used," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters at a briefing in Geneva. "We've reviewed the data on deaths. There has been no death, to date, proven to have been caused by vaccination," she said.
"Yes, we should continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine," she added, stressing though that "any safety signal must be investigated." "We must always ensure that we look for any safety signals when we roll out vaccines, and we must review them," she said. "But there is no indication to not use it," she further said.
For the uninitiated, Denmark and Ireland on Thursday became the latest countries to join a long list of European countries that have suspended the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier, Norway, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Luxembourg have stopped the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine after some patients developed blood clots since receiving the jab.
The move came in the wake of "reports of serious cases of blood clots among people vaccinated with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine", the Danish Health Authority said in a statement. But it cautiously added that "it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots". Nevertheless, it asked the regional authorities in charge of vaccine rollout to stop using the AstraZeneca jab until further notice, the report said.
The report added that there is "good evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective", but that it would consult with the Danish medicines agency in two weeks on the matter. "It is important to point out that we have not terminated the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we are just pausing its use," Danish Health Authority Director Soren Brostrom said in the statement.
Meanwhile, 22 cases of blood clots had been reported among more than three million people vaccinated in the European Economic Area as of March 9, said the European Medicines Agency (EMA). "There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine," EMA added.
"EMA’s safety committee PRAC is reviewing this issue; it is investigating the cases reported with the batch as well as all other cases of thromboembolic events, and other conditions related to blood clots, reported post-vaccination. The information available so far indicates that the number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population," it added.
Besides, Germany's top health official on Friday expressed regret that some neighbouring countries have paused their use of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine following reports of blood clots in some people, despite the lack of any evidence the shot was responsible.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said that while Germany takes reports of possible side effects from vaccines "very, very seriously," both the European Medicines Agency and Germany's own vaccine oversight body have said they have no evidence of an increase in dangerous blood clots in connection with the shots.
"I regret that on the basis of the knowledge of Friday morning some countries in the European Union have suspended vaccinations with AstraZeneca," Spahn told reporters in Berlin.