‘It’s both safe and effective’: Boris Johnson backs AstraZeneca Covid vaccine after Italy, Norway and Denmark stop giving out the jabs amid blood clot fears
- The European Medicines Agency said it had received reports of 22 cases of blood clotting among the three million vaccinated with the jab on the Continent
- Denmark, Norway and Iceland have said they will temporarily halt the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine
- Five other EU countries have also suspended the use of vaccines from a particular batch
- AstraZeneca said its vaccine had met ‘clear and stringent’ safety standards before being approved by the EU
Boris Johnson yesterday insisted the Oxford jab was safe after the EU launched a probe into reports of blood clots in vaccinated Europeans.
The European Medicines Agency said it had received reports of 22 cases of blood clotting among the three million vaccinated with the jab on the Continent – including one person who died ten days later.
Yesterday, Denmark, Norway and Iceland said they would temporarily halt the rollout of the Oxford vaccine as a precaution.
Five other European countries – Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg – have also suspended the use of vaccines from a batch of one million doses that went to 17 European nations.
Boris Johnson yesterday insisted the Oxford jab was safe after the EU launched a probe into reports of blood clots in vaccinated Europeans. The European Medicines Agency said it had received reports of 22 cases of blood clotting among the three million vaccinated with the jab on the Continent – including one person who died ten days later. Pictured: A man receives an AstraZeneca vaccination in Berlin on March 8
However, a French official last night said the country has ‘no need’ to suspend use of the jab.
Danish health minister Magnus Heunicke admitted it was too soon to conclude if ‘there is any connection’ between the vaccine and blood clotting, but added: ‘We act early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated.’
No 10 yesterday insisted the jab is safe and that Britons should continue to take it. Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: ‘We’ve been clear that it’s both safe and effective, and when people are asked to come forward and take it, they should do so in confidence.’
French President Emmanuel Macron previously said the jab was ‘quasi-effective’ in over-65s. The claim was widely rejected by scientists and was criticised as a political move born out of post-Brexit ill will.
But France, along with a host of other European nations, then blocked use of the jab for the elderly. Last week, Mr Macron made a partial U-turn on the decision after a slow uptake of the Oxford jab among the French was seen to be contributing to the country’s sluggish immunisation programme.
Germany followed with its own U-turn, recommending the jab for the over-65s.
Meanwhile yesterday, AstraZeneca said in a statement that its vaccine had met ‘clear and stringent’ safety standards before being approved for use in Europe in January.
‘Peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine is generally well tolerated,’ the company said. And the UK’s Medicines And Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) suggested the number of blood clots reported in the EU is no greater than the amount that would occur naturally.
Dr Phil Bryan, the MHRA head of vaccines safety, said: ‘The Danish authorities’ action to temporarily suspend use of the vaccine is precautionary whilst they investigate. Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon.’
Dr Bryan said more than 11million doses of the Oxford jab had been administered in the UK, adding: ‘Reports of blood clots received so far are not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population.
‘The safety of the public will always come first. We are keeping this issue under close review but available evidence does not confirm that the vaccine is the cause.’
AstraZeneca said in a statement that its vaccine had met ‘clear and stringent’ safety standards before being approved for use in Europe in January [Stock image]
Professor Stephen Evans, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the suspensions were ‘a super-cautious approach based on some isolated reports in Europe’.
He said the problem lay in ‘the enormous difficulty of distinguishing a causal effect from a coincidence’, adding that Covid-19 itself was very strongly associated with blood clotting.
Denmark’s decision comes days after Austria suspended use of a particular batch of the drug, ABV5300, because a woman died within 10 days of the jab. Italy suspended use of a separate batch after two Italians died.
The European Medicines Agency said there was ‘no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions (clots), which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine’. It has opened an investigation into the quality of the ABV5300 batch.
The developments look set to further hamper the EU’s beleaguered vaccination rollout, which has been fraught by delays.
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