Nearly a dozen countries resumed use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 shots on Friday as the EU and UK regulators said the benefits outweighed the risks after reports of rare cases of blood clotting that temporarily halted vaccinations .
The end of the suspensions will usher in a test of public confidence in both gunfire and drug regulators, whose conclusions will be subject to unprecedented scrutiny as virus variants spread and the global death toll now close to 2.7 million lies, rises.
Indonesia, along with Germany, France and others, re-administered the shots after the vaccinations were suspended following reports of around 30 rare cases of cerebral blood clots after millions of injections, which scientists and governments tried to determine if there was a link.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) clearly concluded that the vaccine’s benefits in protecting people from coronavirus-related death or hospitalization outweighed the potential risks.
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Still, EMA said a link between rare occurrences of blood clots in the brain and the shot could not be definitively ruled out and that the investigation would continue with the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).
“This is a safe and effective vaccine,” EMA director Emer Cooke said in a briefing Thursday. “If I were I would be vaccinated tomorrow.”
The EMA announced that it will update its vaccine guidelines to provide patients with an explanation of the potential risks and information for health professionals to help people identify cases where they may need medical attention after vaccination.
After the EMA move, others also sought to build trust in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is viewed as a key asset around the world due to its relatively simple storage and transportation requirements and its affordable price compared to Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines.
“What we should really focus on is that this is incredibly comforting. The processes are working, the security oversight that we all expect from our authorities is in place,” Andrew Pollard, who heads the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the BBC, after both Radio regulators said vaccinations could resume after reports of blood clots.
“We need to keep monitoring security, but in the end, it’s the virus we’re fighting, not the vaccines.”
Oxford University is working with AstraZeneca on the vaccine.
Germany resumed administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Friday morning, while French Prime Minister Jean Castex said he would try to encourage a similar resumption in his country by receiving the shot himself on Friday.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy would follow suit and mirror the sentiments of Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania.
Spain will resume vaccinations from Wednesday. Canada also supported the vaccine.
The UK MHRA is investigating five cases of the rare cerebral blood clot reported in 11 million shots administered in the UK.
It said it would look into reports of blood clots in the cerebral veins (sinus vein thrombosis, or CSVT) that occur along with low platelets soon after vaccination. However, the agency said use of the vaccine should continue, and an official said the UK’s rollout was unlikely to stop even if a link was shown.
The drug manufacturer’s own review, which included more than 17 million people shot in the EU and the UK, found no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.
The World Health Organization, which this week also reiterated its support for the shot, which remains a central element of its COVAX vaccine exchange program, plans on Friday to provide an update on its vaccine council’s own review.