AstraZeneca: Europe divided over suspensions, investigation continues

(BBC) – Countries around Europe are seeking further clarification on the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, amid criticism of their decision to suspend giving the jab.

France, Germany, Spain and Italy have said they are awaiting an investigation by the EU’s regulator into reports of clots in a small number of recipients.

But other EU members, including Poland and Belgium, are continuing its use.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will release its findings on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the EMA said it was still “firmly convinced” of the benefits of the AstraZeneca drug. Its head, Emer Cooke, pointed out that blood clots highlighted by some countries were relatively common in the general population.

“I want to stress at present there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions,” she said.

In a joint statement later on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the EMA’s comments were “encouraging”.
Meanwhile, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) were also meeting on Tuesday but a spokesman stressed there was “no evidence” that the reported blood clots were linked to the vaccine.

The WHO has urged countries not to pause their vaccinations. The suspensions come as much of Europe struggles to control rising cases.

In the UK, more than 11 million people have already received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and there has been no sign of excess deaths or blood clots occurring.

What action are countries taking?

Some 13 European countries have paused their use of the vaccine. Denmark was first, followed by Norway and Iceland. Germany, France, Italy, Cyprus, Spain, Latvia and Sweden are the latest to follow suit.

On Monday, the three largest EU members – Germany, France and Italy – said they were awaiting the results of the EMA investigation before deciding whether to resume their rollout of the jab.

They said they had opted to pause their use of the drug as a “precautionary measure”.

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