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WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine benefits outweigh risk

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine benefits outweigh risk
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The World Health Organization on Wednesday recommended that nations continue using a vaccine against the coronavirus created by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca after some European countries halted its use over safety concerns.

In a statement, the WHO said its Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety was assessing safety data, and that it was staying in touch with the European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s version of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

About a dozen nations, mostly in Europe, have paused their use of AstraZeneca vaccines after a few people who received the shot developed dangerous blood clots. Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Thailand halted their use of the vaccine last week. Other European nations including Germany, France and Spain have hit pause too.

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AstraZeneca said it had reviewed data on the 17 million people who received the vaccine in Europe and the United Kingdom and found fewer than 40 who developed blood clots.

The WHO said blood clots are common, and that vaccination campaigns should continue.

“Vaccination against Covid-19 will not reduce illness or deaths from other causes. Thromboembolic events are known to occur frequently. Venous thromboembolism is the third most common cardiovascular disease globally,” the agency said. “At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been approved by the FDA.

But there are other troubling signs for the vaccine. A study published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found a two-dose regimen was ineffective against mild to moderate cases of a coronavirus strain known as B.1.351, first identified in South Africa. 

Health experts are concerned that the pause in European nations will slow down Europe’s already-troubled vaccine rollout. The AstraZeneca vaccine has made up an increasingly large portion of vaccines administered in the European Union, though most recipients are still getting vaccines created by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.