Jane Kirby, PA’s health editor, has put together this guide to what is currently happening with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The German medicines regulator has reported 31 cases of a type of rare brain blood clot among the nearly 2.7 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the country. The country has consequently suspended its use for people aged under 60.
Nine of the 31 people suffering clots have died, and all but two of the cases involved women who were aged 20 to 63, Germany’s Paul Ehrlich Institute said. The two men were aged 36 and 57. The concerns centre on cerebral venous sinus thrombosis blood clots, which stop blood draining from the brain properly.
Several senior regulators, including the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), have said there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine has caused these rare blood clots.
While a definitive link cannot be ruled out, they say the benefits of having the vaccine far outweigh any potential risks and both have declared it “safe and effective”.
This view is echoed by the World Health Organization, which has urged countries to continue using the jab. Covid in itself can cause an increased risk of blood clots – a risk that is far higher than any posed by the vaccine.
The EMA and MHRA are continuing to monitor cases but say millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered with very few reports of clots.
The International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis has also recommended that all eligible adults continue to receive their Covid-19 vaccine.
Canada has also suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under 55 due to the concerns raised in Europe. France already limits the use of the jab to those aged over 55.
But several European countries are using the AstraZeneca vaccine without such restrictions following the EMA’s ruling that it is safe. These include Italy, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Portugal.
Scientists in the UK have been largely unconcerned and say there is no data to directly link the vaccine with blood clots.
Prof Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said on Monday: “It remains uncertain whether the vaccine caused these cases and the mechanism by which these blood clotting abnormalities come about and why they affect this very small proportion of individuals has still not been properly worked out.
“What seems clear is that the risks to individuals in age groups currently being targeted for vaccination in the UK of death and of dangerous blood clots are greatly reduced by receiving this vaccine, because it reliably prevents severe Covid-19 which definitely causes many deaths and blood clots and which poses a much larger and clearer risk than any possible rare vaccine side effects that may exist.
“Right now the biggest risk to our lives and livelihoods in this country and throughout the world is Covid-19.”
AstraZeneca has previously said its own review found no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, or in any particular country.