U.K. Says AstraZeneca Shot Safe Even After 7 Blood Clot Deaths
The U.K. confirmed seven people had died from rare blood clots after receiving AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine and Australia is also investigating a case of clotting, raising questions about the safety of the widely used coronavirus shot.
The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said Saturday that of 30 cases of clotting and low blood platelets identified in people in the U.K. who had received the shot through March 24, seven had died. More than 18 million doses have been administered in the country and the regulator insists the shot is safe.
“The benefits of Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in preventing Covid-19 infection and its complications continue to outweigh any risks and the public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so,” June Raine, the MHRA chief executive, said Saturday in an emailed statement.
Australia said Saturday that it was cooperating with regulators in the U.K. and the European Union after identifying a case of blood clotting on April 2 in someone who had received the AstraZeneca shot.
The latest revelation will likely add to the growing concern over the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the backbone of the U.K.’s successful inoculation campaign. Many countries around the world were relying on the AstraZeneca to drive their their immunization programs and now some are reconsidering despite growing levels of Covid cases.
The Netherlands Friday joined Germany in suspending the vaccine’s use in people under 60. Norway and Denmark extended suspensions on the use of the shot, which has also been the subject of a tussle over supplies between the EU, the U.K. and others.
South Africa Friday concluded the sale of 1 million of the shots to other countries after finding they had little impact on a variant first identified in the country last year.
The U.K. continues to forge ahead with its vaccine program, which has delivered a first shot to more than 60% of all adults. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to offer a first shot to all adults by the end of July, with the Astra vaccination critical to reaching that goal.
With the new reports of the clotting condition, the rate of incidents following the AstraZeneca shot in the U.K. is about 1 in 600,000. There were no reports of the same reactions to the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, which is also being used in Britain.
Earlier this week, the EU drugs regulator said a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare type of blood clot is possible, identifying at least 62 cases of the condition. The European Medicines Agency said its safety committee will probably issue an updated recommendation next week.
Although more research is needed to examine possible links, “the key thing to remember is how rare these brain clots are, and how powerful the proven benefit of vaccination is against Covid,” said David Werring, professor of clinical neurology at University College London’s Institute of Neurology.
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