Well-Being Prevention & Cures

WHO urges European countries to continue Astrazeneca vaccine, says benefits ‘outweigh’ risks

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Story at a glance

  • Reports of blood clots among patients who received a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine prompted some countries to pause its usage.
  • AstraZeneca CMO Ann Taylor and other officials say the occurrences of thromboembolic events are lower than national averages.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement on Wednesday encouraging nations to use AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, amid several European countries opting to discontinue its usage following possible adverse patient reactions. 

Reports stating patients who had taken the vaccine reported rare blood coagulation disorders prompted some European Union member nations to halt usage of the vaccine. 

Others, looking at the same data, are continuing to administer it.

The WHO says the latter choice is optimal.

“At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue,” the statement reads. “The WHO COVID-19 Subcommittee of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is carefully assessing the latest available safety data for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Once that review is completed, WHO will immediately communicate the findings to the public.”

Countries including Luxembourg, Latvia, Sweden, Cyprus and other nations have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. 

“The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population,” the report, released on Monday, stated.

EMA officials are still probing data related to blood clot events in AstraZeneca vaccine recipients. Echoing the WHO, however, the agency noted the benefits of receiving a vaccine against COVID-19 outweigh any potential dangers. 

“Vaccines for COVID-19 help to protect individuals from becoming ill, especially healthcare professionals and vulnerable populations, such as older people or those with chronic diseases,” EMA officials write.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be approved by U.S. regulators, despite its use in Europe. Emerging data suggests a solid efficacy rate of 70 percent, per a study published in The Lancet. The pharmaceutical company and the U.S. government did solidify a deal for AstraZeneca to sell 500,000 doses of an antibody treatment for COVID-19 prevention.

“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” said Ann Taylor AstraZeneca’s Chief Medical Officer. “The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety.”