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Benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks, says EU regulator

Benefits of AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks, says EU regulator

Vials of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a medical center in Champigny, near Paris, as France's decision to suspend temporarily the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was taken in co-ordination with other European countries, March 16, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

AMSTERDAM: Europe's medicines watchdog said on Tuesday (Mar 16) the benefits of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks after several countries halted its use due to concerns about blood clots.

European Medicines Agency's (EMA) executive director Emer Cooke said there was no indication that the blood clot incidents, which she called "very rare" had been caused by the vaccine, but that experts were assessing that possibility.

READ: Germany, Italy, France suspend AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shots amid safety fears

READ: Portugal temporarily suspends AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots

Trust in the safety of the vaccines was paramount and the agency was carrying out a case-by-case evaluation, she said.

"The benefits continue to outweigh the risks, but this is a serious concern and it does need serious and detailed scientific evaluation. This is what we are involved in at the moment," Cooke told a news conference.

The results of its findings would be discussed during an EMA review on Thursday after which the results would be made public, Cooke said. She added that she saw no reason to change the EMA's recommendation of AstraZeneca - one of four vaccines that it has approved for use.

Sweden and Latvia on Tuesday suspended use of the vaccine, bringing to more than a dozen the number of EU countries to act since reports first emerged of thromboembolisms affecting people after they got the AstraZeneca shot.

NO EVIDENCE BLOOD CLOTS MORE LIKELY: UK

The WHO and EMA had earlier joined AstraZeneca in saying there is no proven link, but some experts said the episodes of blood clots, bleeding and low platelet counts in younger people seemed to indicate a causal connection to the AstraZeneca shot.

Epidemiologists note that similar cases have not been found in unusual numbers in Britain, which began using AstraZeneca earlier and has given more than 10 million doses.

"A very likely explanation of at least some of the clotting disorders seen are a result of COVID-19 rather than the vaccine," said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"There are published papers that make clear that these problems definitely occur in COVID-19 and there is no doubt that all the vaccines in use prevent that disease. Hence the risk and benefit balance for the AstraZeneca vaccine remains clearly in favour of its benefits."

There is no evidence that blood clots are any more likely to occur after people are given AstraZeneca's vaccine, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, citing the UK medicine regulator.

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Source: Reuters

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