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European countries to resume AstraZeneca jab rollout

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The EU’s leading states are to restart their roll-out of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after Europe’s medicines regulator concluded it was “safe and effective”.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) reviewed the jab after 13 European countries suspended the use of the vaccine over fears of a link to blood clots.

It found the jab was “not associated” with a higher risk of clots.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain said they would resume using the jab.

It is up to individual EU states to decide whether and when to re-start vaccinations using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Sweden said it needed a “few days” to decide.

 The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday, 18 March, called on countries to continue using the vaccine, and is due to release the results of its own review into the vaccine’s safety on Friday.
The agency’s investigation focused on a small number of cases of unusual blood disorders. In particular, it was looking at cases of cerebral venous thrombosis – blood clots in the head.

Decisions to suspend use of the vaccine sparked concerns over the pace of the region’s vaccination drive, which had already been affected by supply shortages.

French prime minister Jean Castex announced new measures for his country on Thursday, saying the pandemic was clearly accelerating and a “third wave” of infections looked increasingly likely.

Mr Castex, 55, said he would receive the jab himself on Friday afternoon.

Thirteen European countries suspended use of the vaccine, after reports of a small number of cases of blood clots among vaccine recipients in the region.

Leading EU states said they had opted to pause their use of the drug as a “precautionary measure”.
In Germany, the health ministry also pointed to a small number of rare blood clots in vaccinated people when justifying its decision. It postponed a summit on extending the vaccine rollout ahead of the EMA’s announcement.

Other countries, such as Austria, halted the use of certain batches of the drug, while Belgium, Poland and the Czech Republic were among those to say they would continue to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Decisions to halt rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine were criticised by some politicians and scientists.

The company says there is no evidence of an increased risk of clotting due to the vaccine.

It said it had received 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the EU and UK as of 8 March.

These figures were “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed Covid-19 vaccines”, it said.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group which developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab said on Monday that there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe have been given so far”.

British health secretary Matt Hancock this week urged people to “listen to the regulators” and to “get the jab”.

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