Health experts in Europe say they’re feeling “disappointed and confused” by the slew of suspicions that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine can lead to blood clots. Doctors are claiming that there’s not enough evidence for these countries to be raising these suspicions, and going so far as to suspend the use of the vaccine from the University of Oxford, especially considering a lot of European countries are still moving slowly in their vaccine distribution.
Sweden and Latvia announced this week that they would be joining the growing number of European nations now suspending the use of the vaccine as a “precautionary measure” following reports of blood clots. Germany, France, Italy, and Spain also announced that they would cease administering the shot.
Thailand also joined Europe in their removal of the AstraZeneca vaccine from its lineup. The UK, Canada, and Australia, on the other hand, are still distributing the vaccine, and are working to reassure their citizens that it is indeed safe, or else it wouldn’t have gotten the approval for its distribution in the first place.
“The World Health Organization, Europe’s drug regulator and the International Society, have all recommended that countries continue to use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The decisions by France, Germany and other countries look baffling, the data we have suggests that numbers of adverse events related to blood clots are the same (and possibly, in fact lower) in vaccinated groups compared to unvaccinated populations,” said Dr. Michael Head, senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, U.K.
“Halting a vaccine roll out during a pandemic has consequences. This results in delays in protecting people, and the potential for increased vaccine hesitancy, as a result of people who have seen the headlines and understandably become concerned. There are no signs yet of any data that really justify these decisions,” he added.
The WHO is meeting this week to review the safety of the shot to really give citizens that additional reassurance. The European Medicines Agency is doing the same thing, but has also already claimed that there is “no indication that the AStraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots, the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh the risks.”
AstraZeneca themselves have claimed 17 million people have now received a full dose of their vaccine, and of those individuals there have been 15 reported incidents of deep vein thrombosis and 22 events of pulmonary embolism across the EU.
“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 data available so far showed that the number of blood clots in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen among the general population,” AstraZeneca said.
Dr. Stephen Griffin is an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, who recently spoke to the media about how disappointed he was that so many nations were using this fear as a reason to delay vaccine distribution.
“Since many European countries are currently experiencing another resurgence of SARS-CoV2 infections and yet are lagging behind in terms of roll out, the importance of continuing the vaccination programs cannot be underestimated, and the harm caused by depriving people of access to a vaccine will likely vastly outweigh even the worst case scenario if any link to the clotting disorders is eventually found. It should also be noted that nationwide gestures such as this are bound to fuel hesitancy, or more extreme anti-vaccine sentiment, further undermining the vaccination effort,” Griffin proclaimed.
“Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the AZ vaccine have now been administered across the UK, and the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine is not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population,” he continued.
“We are working closely with international counterparts in understanding the global safety experience of COVID-19 vaccines and on the rapid sharing of safety data and reports. People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so,” Griffin reassured, guaranteeing European citizens that by the end of the week these major medical groups will likely re-release more updated data regarding the safety of this vaccine.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.