As more countries are fighting for new viral infections in the absence of vaccines, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Wednesday that blood clots should be listed as a rare side effect of AstraZeneca jab, but the benefits still outweigh the risks.
A number of nations have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger populations after it was previously banned directly in several places due to blood clots.
Britain said on Wednesday that people under the age of 30 should choose alternatives to the vaccine after reporting 19 deaths from blood clots among people who got the shot.
Back and forth around the vaccine comes when countries from Germany to Ukraine and India face new waves of infections and deaths from the virus that has now killed more than 2.8 million people globally.
Governments are struggling to secure much-needed vaccine doses, with Australia as the last nation to complain of shortages, as it accused EU export controls.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Wednesday that blood clots should be listed as a “very rare” side effect, encouraging countries to continue using it.
The announcement came after the EMA’s safety committee examined reports of blood clots, but EMA chief Emer Cooke said no particular risk factor had been identified and that the blood clots could be linked to an immune response to the vaccine.
“Specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history have not been able to be confirmed as the rare events are seen at all ages,” she told a news conference.
“The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the prevention of Covid-19 generally outweigh the risk of side effects,” she added.
“It saves lives.”
Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands are among several countries that do not recommend the shot to younger people.
The UK urged people under 30 to use other vaccines besides AstraZeneca after reporting 79 blood clots and 19 deaths among 20 million doses given. It did not say how many people had received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been administered in at least 111 countries, more than any of its rivals, according to AFP data. It is used in richer countries and poor nations, largely as part of the WHO-supported Covax scheme to ensure fair access to vaccines.
The jab controversy has ruined a global vaccine rollout that governments hope will help countries emerge from a pandemic that has ravaged the global economy and exposed much of humanity to some form of incarceration.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed support for a snap-lockdown to curb rising cases after decentralized measures failed to curb outbreaks.
The hard-hit France introduced tighter measures this week, while Ukraine on Wednesday reported record-breaking new deaths and hospitalizations after tightening measures in the capital.
“It is no exaggeration to describe the situation as critical,” said Mayor Vitali Klitschko in Kiev, warning that the city’s hospitals would soon run out of beds.
India, which recorded a 24-hour record of nearly 116,000 new cases on Wednesday, said it would also spread tougher curbs with new curfews in place in 20 cities, including the capital New Delhi.