WHO Backs AstraZeneca Vaccine, Says Benefits Outweigh Risks

The World Health Organization said AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine should continue to be administered as the benefits outweigh its risks, the second health authority to endorse the shot in as many days.

A WHO expert group is assessing the latest safety data and will communicate the findings once the review is completed, the organization said in a statement Wednesday.

Reports of blood clots in some people who received the Astra shots prompted more than a dozen European Union countries to pause immunizations, risking another slowdown in the bloc’s vaccination push. The European Medicines Agency is due to provide a definitive assessment on Thursday. Italy and France have indicated they would lift suspensions if the shot is deemed safe.

WHO officials on Monday said preliminary data don’t show an association between blood clots and the vaccine. Blood clots occur frequently regardless: They are the third-most common cardiovascular disease globally, according to the WHO.

The Astra vaccine, one of four cleared for use in the EU, has been the subject of controversy on multiple levels, with supply shortfalls prompting the bloc to impose export controls even as many doses go unused amid growing safety concerns.

“No drug or vaccine could ever be 100% safe,” Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, said on Monday. “You could have something that happens one in a million. But then you need to look at what’s the benefit of protecting people against a disease that’s killing millions against the potential risks.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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