EU REGULATOR BACKS ASTRAZENECA JAB
Experts who argue that the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is safe - and certainly safer than getting COVID-19 - circled their wagons on Tuesday, but not before more countries suspended the jab, Leonie Kijewski, and Krzysztof Bastian reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) - which approved the vaccine in January - remains convinced of the safety of AstraZeneca's product, the organization's chief said on Tuesday.
"A situation like this is not unexpected," executive director Emer Cooke said, referring to several cases of blood clots that had reportedly developed following an injection. "When you vaccinate millions of people, it's inevitable that you have rare or serious incidences of illnesses that occur after vaccination."
Fear has been spreading about the jab as more countries report incidences of blood clots in people after receiving a vaccination.
The fears have grown to the point where several European countries have shelved the product, complicating already troubled vaccination drives.
The rate of reported blood clots among vaccinated people seemed to broadly mirror the rate in the general population, Cooke explained.
The agency had also received similar numbers from other vaccines from across the world, she said. Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden and Venezuela on Tuesday joined the list of countries suspending the use of the AstraZeneca jab.
Those announcements came on top of previous ones from Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.
However, EMA had launched a "very rigorous analysis" to determine whether the vaccines might have caused the events, she said. There had also been speculation as to whether specific batches of the vaccine produced might have caused the blood clots. However, this seemed "unlikely," Cooke said, adding that the agency would present its findings on Thursday.
"We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 with its associated risk of hospitalization and death outweigh the risk of these side effects," she said.