French Prime Minister Jean Castex will receive the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Friday afternoon at the Begin military hospital near Paris as France resumes use of the vaccine a day after the European Medicines Agency said the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.
Castex said on Thursday that it would receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in an attempt to restore public confidence in the product after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the jab was “safe and effective” and not associated with a higher risk of blood clots after days of confusion.
More than a dozen nations, including France, had discontinued use after a survey of reports of blood problems. Reports of about 30 cases of rare blood clots in the brain, after millions of injections, sent researchers and governments to find out if there was a link.
But the EMA on Thursday came to what it called a clear conclusion that the benefits of the vaccine to protect people from coronavirus-related deaths or hospitalization outweigh the potential risks.
Nevertheless, the EMA said that a link between rare events of blood clots in the brain and the shot could not be definitively ruled out and that it will continue its review, together with the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
“This is a safe and effective vaccine,” EMA chief Emer Cooke said during a briefing on Thursday. “If it was me, I would be vaccinated tomorrow.”
Explanations for patients
The EMA said it would update its vaccine guidelines to include an explanation for patients about the potential risks and information for healthcare professionals, to help people recognize opportunities when they may need to seek medical help after a vaccination.
Following the EMA move, others also sought to strengthen confidence in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is seen globally as an important asset due to its relatively simple storage and transport needs and low cost compared to mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.
“What we really need to focus on is that this is incredibly calming. The processes are working, the safety oversight that we all expect from our authorities is happening,” Andrew Pollard, who runs the Oxford Vaccine Group, told BBC Radio, after both regulators said vaccinations could continue after reports of blood clots.
“We must continue to monitor safety, but in the end it is the virus we are fighting, not the vaccines.”
Oxford University is collaborating with AstraZeneca on the vaccine.
Other EU members follow
The end of AstraZeneca suspensions starts a test of public confidence, both in the shot and to drug authorities whose findings are under scrutiny, as virus variants spread and the global number of deaths, now nearly 2.7 million, increases.
Germany also resumed administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Friday morning, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy would follow suit and reiterate sentiments from Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania.
Spain and Canada also supported the vaccine.
The World Health Organization, which this week also reaffirmed its support for the shot that remains a central part of its COVAX vaccine sharing program, plans on Friday to provide an update on its own advisory committee’s own review.
( Jowharwith AFP, AP and REUTERS)