EU to lift AstraZeneca ban after linking jab to blood clots
- EU could reverse the AstraZeneca ban later today
- European Medicines Agency (EMA) expected to post the results Thursday afternoon
- NHS officials warned of vaccine shortages next month
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a Downing Street press briefing to address vaccine shortages and AstraZeneca jab concerns
- According to the latest reports, the European Union is on the brink of making a U-turn on the AstraZeneca ban after several EU countries imposed amid rising fears that the vaccine was linked to blood clot cases.
Several European countries, including the bloc’s largest economy Germany, have suspended the Oxford-AstraZeneca developed jab pending investigation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Medical experts from the EU regulator are expected to meet on Thursday to conclude whether the vaccine is responsible for the 37 blood clotting incidents reported to the agency.
Vaccine regulators from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been adamant that the Oxford jab is safe to use and accused the EU of scaremongering.
WHO Europe director Hans Kluge went one step further and insisted that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks of the associated side-effects.
His comments were echoed by the EMA, which said it remains “firmly convinced” that AstraZeneca’s jabs save lives and delay the spread of COVID-19.
Like Pfizer’s vaccine, a single dose of the AstraZeneca jab has been shown to offer more than 80% protection against the coronavirus.
However, the medical guidance failed to offset concerns, and once Germany banned the jabs, several other EU and non-EU countries followed suit.
The banned jabs have also triggered a divide among the scientific community and European countries, with some choosing to continue rolling out the Oxford-AstraZeneca injection and others sounding a note of caution.
Greece has already launched an attack at EU member states that suspended the vaccine, stressing that EU regulators have been very clear “in telling us that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential costs”.
Fears escalated after Denmark recorded death in a 60-year-old-woman who had been recently vaccinated and developed “highly abnormal symptoms.”
While there has been fierce pushback from some scientific community members and EU countries, the EMA insists that there is no indication that the vaccine is linked to blood clots. Still, the damage has already been done, and concerns over the jab’s safety are mounting.
It comes as the EU faces its third COVID wave and continues to experience vaccine shortages and supply issues.
Fears over the Oxford vaccine’s safety have also weaved their way into other countries. Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have now suspended the rollout after digesting data from Europe.
However, the 17 European countries that have banned the jab are expected to lift suspensions immediately if the EU regulator finds that the jab is not linked to pulmonary embolism.
France and Italy stated that they would start deploying doses “promptly” if the immunisation is given the all-clear. Evidence that the vaccine is safe would also help developing countries fight against the coronavirus. The AstraZeneca jab also poses less logistic issues than other formulas, making it easier to transport and store.
However, if the EMA finds that the vaccine does cause blood shots, the global COVID rate could surge as vaccine rollouts will likely be delayed across Europe and beyond.
The world is currently awaiting the EMA’s results, which are expected to be unveiled later this afternoon.
In other news, the UK could be facing a vaccine shortage next month due to a shipment delay from India’s Serum Institute, which is manufacturing AstraZeneca’s shot.
UK could be facing a vaccine shortage in April
The UK has been leading the race to immunisation. With more than 25 million people across the country vaccinated against the virus, it has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.
However, NHS officials said that the UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme could be significantly reduced in April due to a delay in India’s scheduled batch arrival.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses had been delayed as they need to be retested.
The UK currently inoculates its residents with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the AstraZeneca shot, with 10 million of the agreed 100million doses agreed with AstraZeneca being manufactured in India’s Serum Institute.
The delay has also triggered fears of vaccine shortages in the UK, which could cause Britain to miss its target of inoculating all nine of its priority groups by April.
However, Matt Hancock has insisted that all adults will still be offered their first vaccine dose by April. Mr Hancock also said that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit roadmap for England was unaffected.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, said that “we have every reason to believe that supply will increase in May, June and July.”
However, news of vaccine delays and an increased risk of blood clots with the Oxford vaccine has prompted Mr Johnson to call an emergency coronavirus press briefing at Downing Street.
What can we expect from Boris Johnson’s coronavirus press briefing?
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make an urgent televised address to the nation at 5pm tonight amid rising panic over vaccine supplies and the Oxford jab’s safety.
According to the latest data, approximately 17 million people across the European Union and the UK have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Furthermore, with only 37 blood clot incidents reports – scientific communities have said that people should not be concerned.
Following a rigorous scientific review, the UK’s medical regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), also confirmed that the vaccine is safe to use.
The MHRA noted that a causal association with the vaccine has not been established and urged people to continue receiving the jab to protect themselves against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, fears of vaccine shortages in the UK comes hours after Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed Britain’s “safe” vaccination programme, calling it the “best project he had ever worked on.”
Moments after the conference, newswires drew attention to a leaked letter to the NHS warning of a dramatic reduction in vaccine supply next month.
The letter also noted that vaccination centres should not book any additional appointments for April and that health officials should prioritise over-50s unless a young person belongs to a vulnerable group.
Boris Johnson is expected to advocate the AstraZeneca vaccine during the Downing Street press briefing and reassure the public that it is safe to use.
The EMA is yet to release the investigation results but the EU regulator and the WHO have insisted that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks. They also added that the small number of blood clot cases reported could be considered average among a group that size.
UK Prime Minister is also expected to point out that he has booked an appointment to receive his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and provide the public and businesses reassurance over the lockdown exit roadmap, which is not set to be delayed.