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WHO meets to discuss AstraZeneca vaccine as more EU countries halt rollout

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On Tuesday, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Latvia and Sweden became the last European countries to suspend their use, despite advice from international medical agencies that the benefits of receiving gunshots outweigh the potential risks.

The WHO on Monday called on countries to continue vaccination campaigns, saying there was no evidence that the vaccine caused clotting problems.

“To date, there is no evidence that the incidents were caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue to save lives and stop serious disease from the virus,” said WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier .

The WHO is evaluating the latest reports of thromboembolic events, but said it was “unlikely” that it would change its recommendations.

The European Medicines Regulator, the European Medical Authority (EMA), which authorized the use of the shot for the 27-country bloc, convened a special meeting on Thursday to review information gathered on whether the AstraZeneca vaccine influenced the coagulation of vaccinated people.

The EMA has also advised against stopping vaccination campaigns while investigations are ongoing and reiterated that advice on Tuesday.

“There are currently no indications that vaccination has caused these conditions, they have not appeared in clinical trials and they do not appear as known or expected side events with this vaccine,” Executive Director Emer Cooke told the digital press.

“We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh these side effects,” said Cooke, who was concerned that the suspensions would harm the confidence in vaccines.

But much of Europe has gone against such advice in recent days, temporarily halting the firing of AstraZeneca even as the continent faces a third wave of the pandemic, spurred on by variants of the virus, and s faces criticism over slow vaccination campaigns.

These decisions were coordinated in France, Italy, Spain and Germany, French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on Tuesday. “As you can imagine, we talk. We talk to Italy, we talk to Spain, we talk to Germany and it’s no coincidence that these four countries announced the same decision on the same day, which is once again a suspension decision,” Pannier-Runacher said. informed the French radio station of France.

AstraZeneca is not the only vaccine available in Europe. The EU has also authorized BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Doses of BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently being rolled out to Europeans, but the first deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not expected to arrive until mid-April. On Tuesday, Pfizer agreed to speed up the delivery of 10 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the EU, days after AstraZeneca said it would have a “deficit” in planned vaccine shipments to the block.

U.S. regulators have not yet given the green light to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been licensed for use in dozens of countries worldwide.

The EMA is also examining the blood clot report on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Cooke said Tuesday. He said there is unlikely to be a potential problem with a specific AstraZeneca batch, but confirmed that the final result of the agency review will arrive on Thursday.

Denmark was the first last Thursday to pause the AstraZeneca vaccine as a “precautionary measure”, while Danish health officials are investigating possible side effects after the death of a person who developed a blood clot afterwards. of vaccination. Norway, Iceland and Bulgaria followed suit.

The Danish woman who died after the vaccination had low platelet counts, blood clots in small and large vessels and was bleeding, according to the Danish Medicines Agency.

“The clinical picture is very unusual and the European Medicines Agency is currently investigating in depth,” the agency said in a statement on Monday.

Another death was reported in Norway on Monday, along with a handful of non-fatal cases with similar “unusual” adverse reactions, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said. The agency has received more than 1,000 reports of side effects in recent days, which it said it is currently reviewing.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has doubled the safety of its vaccine. In a statement on Sunday, the pharmaceutical giant said that of the 17 million people vaccinated so far in the European Union and the UK, blood clot incidents were “much lower than expected to occur naturally in a general population “.

However, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands and Indonesia have joined the countries that stop vaccines against AstraZeneca.

Most countries that have discontinued the vaccine have acknowledged that there is still no evidence that AstraZeneca traits have caused blood clots.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, authorized by the WHO in February, is considered key to fighting the coronavirus in low- and middle-income countries because it is cheap and easy to store. These two factors have made it a key axis for global deployment plans. And fears are growing that the treatment of blood clot reports will affect vaccine confidence.

Chief investigator of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial, Andrew Pollard, warned that it was “absolutely critical” that people do not stop receiving the vaccine, as European countries present with a third increase in infections. He said it appears from the data received from regulators there was “no sign of a problem”.

“It is absolutely critical that there is a careful assessment of these cases, they have obviously been marked in a couple of European countries, so you have to look very closely to see if there is anything unusual … In the meantime, we really need to make sure people are protected from Covid, “Pollard said in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

The British drug regulator said on Monday that it had not experienced any increase in blood clots in the UK, where more than 11 million doses of AstraZeneca have been administered.

The United Kingdom, where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was developed and manufactured, is among several countries that still continue to shoot. Belgium, Australia, Poland, Nigeria, Mexico and the Philippines have said they will continue to use the vaccine as investigations progress.

After becoming the first country outside Europe to delay the launch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Thailand said Monday it would continue to receive doses.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet members received their first live shots of the vaccine on Tuesday.

“This will build confidence among the general public to receive government-organized vaccines,” Prayut said after the inoculation.

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