WHO insists on AstraZeneca use despite blood clot, death claims
The world has joined South Africa in turning its back against the Oxford-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine after multiple blood clot and death claims were reported in different European countries.
These countries have halted use of AstraZeneca
The world is racing against time to achieve herd immunity and AstraZeneca, at this time, at least, has contributed to delays in the global vaccine rollout.
South Africa was the first country to turn away 1.5 million jabs of the double-dose vaccine in February after a study showed that the product was inefficient against the Y501.V2 Covid-19 variant found in South Africa.
The health department said it would funnel the doses into other African countries, instead of returning the batch to the Serum Institute of India (SII).
In Europe, recent developments have added a further blow to AstraZeneca’s reputation. So far, 13 countries in the European Union (EU) have halted the rollout of the vaccine.
On Tuesday, Sweden and Latvia paused their inoculation programmes after it was noted that recipients of the jab developed severe blood clotting.
For similar reasons, Portugal, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Spain also put an end to the AstraZeneca rollout.
How many people have died after taking AstraZeneca?
Much of the hesitancy around the Oxford-manufacture vaccine comes as it has been linked with a number of deaths. Italy immediately called for the suspension of the vaccine after a 57-year-old music teacher from the northern region of Piedmont died shortly after taking a jab.
In Sicily, two more deaths were reported. While the government has yet to establish a link between the deaths and the vaccine, the close proximity of their passing to the time they were inoculated has raised serious concerns about the efficacy of AstraZeneca.
In Austria, a 49-year-old woman also died under similar circumstances, a fateful event that forced the country to halt its vaccine programme.
WHO insists on the use of vaccine despite blood clot claims
At a time when vaccine hesitancy has shot back up, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has pleaded with countries to not discard AstraZeneca just yet.
“We do not want people to panic and we would, for the time being, recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Monday.
Swaminathan stressed that not enough data exists to support this widescale decision that could hold dire implications for the EU if the third wave of Covid-19 hits the region.
“So far, we do not find an association between these events and the vaccine,” he added.
AstraZeneca attempts to clear the air on its dose
AstraZeneca also chimed in with an update. The vaccine manufacturer urged world governments to look at the numbers and make more informed decisions on the use of its product before discarding it.
According to the manufacturer, more than 17 million people have been inoculated with the dose in the EU and United Kingdom (UK), and the data shows “no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.”
“So far across the EU and UK, there have been 15 events of DVT and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine, based on the number of cases the Company has received as of 8 March. 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 monthly safety report will be made public on the European Medicines Agency website in the following week, in line with exceptional transparency measures for COVID-19,” AstraZeneca noted.
WHO and other medical bodies have reconvened to conduct more tests on the vaccine and more outcomes are expected as the week progresses.
From what we know, South Africa has made no plans to include AstraZeneca in its vaccine programme.