Covid-19 roundup: Germany suspends AstraZeneca vaccine as British drugmaker defends shot amid blood clot scare
Following a raft of fellow EU members suspending use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, Germany has become the latest to pause distribution of the shot.
The German government said Monday it’s suspending administration of the vaccine after reports of blood clots prompted other European nations to temporarily stop giving the vaccines to its citizens, the AP reported. As the de facto European economic powerhouse, Germany becomes the highest-profile country to endorse further investigation of the blood clot cases.
Germany’s health ministry said the move was taken as a “precaution” and called for further investigation of the events.
Concerns over the blood clots first emerged last week after two patients in Austria developed thrombotic events, including a pulmonary embolism. Since then, several countries have suspended use of the shot. — Max Gelman
AstraZeneca defends vaccine after suspensions and reports of blood clots
Amid a panicked round of vaccine suspensions triggered by reports of blood clots among those given the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot, the British drugmaker has come out to clear the public record.
AstraZeneca’s statement, like a separate response released by the UK’s MHRA on Sunday, emphasized there’s no evidence suggesting that the adenovirus-based vaccine had caused those thrombotic events.
On Monday, the Netherlands became the latest country to pause use of the vaccine, following in the footsteps of other European countries like Denmark, Ireland and Bulgaria. The concerns about blood clots reached as far as Thailand, where authorities delayed the rollout for several days.
Citing a “careful review of all available safety data” from more than 17 million vaccinated in the EU and UK, AstraZeneca noted that there have been 15 reported cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 of pulmonary embolism as of March 8.
“This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines,” the company wrote in a statement. CMO Ann Taylor added that usually you would expect hundreds of cases among the same number of people.
In fact, in clinical trials, the number of thrombotic events were lower in the vaccinated group versus the placebo group — although the numbers are small there.
Perhaps in response to some countries opting to suspend certain batches of their vaccine, AstraZeneca also made a note about quality control:
In terms of quality, there are also no confirmed issues related to any batch of our vaccine used across Europe, or the rest of the world. Additional testing has, and is, being conducted by ourselves and independently by European health authorities and none of these re-tests have shown cause for concern. During the production of the vaccine more than 60 quality tests are conducted by AstraZeneca, its partners and by more than 20 independent testing laboratories. All tests need to meet stringent criteria for quality control and this data is submitted to regulators within each country or region for independent review before any batch can be released to countries.
Pledging to uphold transparency, they added that a monthly safety report will be made public on the EMA website in the following week.
Phil Bryan, the MHRA vaccines safety lead, noted they are closely reviewing the reports but for now, “People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so.” — Amber Tong
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