Oxford says data show no problem with AstraZeneca vaccine

The head of the Oxford university group that developed the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has said there is “no signal of a problem” with its jab after a number of countries suspended its use because of safety concerns.

The Netherlands on Monday became the latest country to halt use of the vaccine saying that 10 cases of noteworthy side-effects had been reported, including thrombosis. Indonesia also temporarily stopped its rollout.

Ireland, Denmark, Bulgaria, Norway, Iceland and Italy’s Piedmont region have also stayed their Oxford/AstraZeneca inoculation drives, although the picture was mixed as Germany said it would continue deploying it and Thailand resumed use.

Prof Andrew Pollard, Oxford vaccine group director, told the BBC there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a bloodclot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe been given so far”.

“It’s absolutely critical that we don’t have a problem of not vaccinating people and have the balance of a huge risk, a known risk of Covid, against what appears so far from the data that we’ve got from the regulators — no signal of a problem,” he said.

Dr Phil Bryan, vaccines safety head at the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said people “should still go and get their Covid-19 vaccine when asked to do so”.

“We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause,” he said.

The European countries have decided to halt Oxford/AstraZeneca inoculations even though the European Medicines Agency, the EU medical regulator, has recommended its continued use for now. The stoppage threatens to further delay the European bloc’s already stuttering immunisation drive.

Dutch authorities said that 10 cases of problems including possible thrombosis or embolisms had been reported by people who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. That meant 43,000 vaccination appointments would be cancelled. Hugo de Jonge, health minister, characterised the pause as a precaution and said he hoped the situation would be resolved within two weeks.

Indonesia cited European doubts about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in its own decision to stop its rollout temporarily, adding that it would await a World Health Organization review.

Last week, the WHO said that were was no sign the problems were caused by the jabs, while the EMA said there was no indication so far of a higher incidence of thrombosis and embolisms in vaccinated people.

It is the second time EU countries have departed from the EMA’s advice on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Several initially declined to give it to older people, although some are considering changing their stance and offering it to all adults.

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