WHO urges countries to continue launching AstraZeneca vaccine

The World Health Organization gave strong support to the AstraZeneca Covid-19 lab on Friday, urging countries to continue the launch after reviewing blood clot reports.

WHO Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there was no doubt about the benefits after UNHCR experts found no increase in coagulation conditions linked to an AstraZeneca shot.

Several European countries resumed AstraZeneca vaccinations on Friday after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) also gave the green light on Thursday.

“We understand that people may have been concerned about the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine,” Tedros told a news conference.

“The question with any drug or vaccine is whether the risk of taking it is greater or less than the risk of the disease that it is intended to prevent or treat.

“There is no doubt: Covid-19 is a deadly disease and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can prevent it.

“The available data do not indicate an overall increase in coagulation rates following administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

“We urge countries to continue using this important vaccine.”

“Huge potential”

The WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) met virtually on Tuesday and Friday.

It reviewed available information and data on thromboembolic events (blood clots) and thrombocytopenia (low platelets) after vaccination with an AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot.

The committee said the jab “continues to have a positive benefit-risk profile, with enormous potential to prevent infections and reduce deaths worldwide.

“The available data do not indicate an overall increase in coagulation conditions such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.”

These two conditions “occur naturally and are not uncommon”, and also occur as a result of Covid-19, experts said.

“Although very rare and unique thromboembolic events in combination with thrombocytopenia, such as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), have also been reported following vaccination with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Europe, they may not be caused by vaccination.”

EU EMA regulators have examined 18 such cases of more than 20 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccinations in Europe, and “a causal link between these rare events has not yet been established”.

The AstraZeneca vaccine accounts for more than 90 percent of the doses distributed worldwide in the first wave of Covax’s global vaccine dispensing facility.

Just under 30 million doses have so far been distributed to 50 countries as part of the system, which aims to ensure that poorer countries receive enough doses to vaccinate at least 20 percent of their population by the end of the year.

European countries resume shooting

Concerns that AstraZeneca’s vaccine could cause blood clots have seen countries from Venezuela to Indonesia pause its use in recent days, in addition to European countries.

But Germany and Italy said, among other things, that they used jab again from Friday after the EMA said it was “safe and effective”.

Other European countries, including the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, are also ending their repeal.

WHO vaccine safety experts recommended that countries continue to monitor Covid-19 vaccine safety and report suspected adverse reactions.

GACVS also agreed with the EMA’s plans to further investigate and monitor such incidents.

The committee said that healthcare professionals and people who are vaccinated should know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of all serious side effects after immunization with Covid-19 jabs.