The New Zealand Herald

EU agency to probe vaccine blood clot link

AstraZenec­a and Oxford University pause trial of vaccine in children


Atop official at the European Medicines Agency says there’s a causal link between AstraZenec­a’s coronaviru­s vaccine and rare blood clots, but that it’s unclear what the connection is and that the benefits of taking the shot still outweigh the risks of getting Covid-19.

Marco Cavaleri, head of health threats and vaccine strategy at the Amsterdam-based agency, told Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper yesterday that the European Union’s medicines regulator is preparing to make a more definitive statement on the topic this week.

Asked about Cavaleri’s comments, the EMA press office said its evaluation “has not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing”. It said it planned a press conference as soon as the review is finalised, possibly today or Friday.

Based on the evidence so far, Cavaleri said there’s a clear associatio­n between the AstraZenec­a vaccine and the dozens of rare blood clots that have been reported worldwide amid the tens of millions of AstraZenec­a shots that have been given out.

“It is becoming more and more difficult to affirm that there isn’t a cause-and-effect relationsh­ip between AstraZenec­a vaccines and the very rare cases of blood clots associated with a low level of platelets,” Cavaleri said.

AstraZenec­a did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment. Late in the day, however, the pharmaceut­ical company and Oxford University, which developed the vaccine, announced they were pausing the trial of their jabs in children while British regulators investigat­e the potential blood clot link in adults.

“Whilst there are no safety concerns in the pediatric clinical trial, we await additional informatio­n” from the British regulator, an Oxford spokespers­on said in a statement.

In Geneva, the World Health Organisati­on said its experts were also evaluating a possible link between the AstraZenec­a vaccine and rare blood clots — and that it might have a “fresh, conclusive assessment” today.

In March, more than a dozen countries, including Germany, suspended using AstraZenec­a over the blood clot issue. Most EU nations restarted on March 19 — some with age restrictio­ns — after the EMA said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks of not inoculatin­g people against Covid-19. At the time, the EMA recommende­d the vaccine’s leaflet be updated with informatio­n about the rare clots.

Any further doubts about the AstraZenec­a vaccine would be a setback for the vaccine, which is critical to Europe’s immunisati­on campaign and a linchpin in the global strategy to get vaccines to poorer countries. The AstraZenec­a vaccine is cheaper and easier to use than rival vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna and has been endorsed for use in more than 50 countries, including by the 27-nation EU and the World Health Organisati­on. US authoritie­s are still evaluating the vaccine.

Cavaleri said the biological mechanism for how the vaccine might be causing the rare clots was still unknown and if it was linked to how the shot is made, other vaccines with similar technologi­es might also need to be evaluated.

He stressed the risk-benefit analysis remained positive for the AstraZenec­a jab, even for young women who appear to be more affected by the clots.

“Let’s not forget that young women also end up in intensive care with Covid. So we need to do very meticulous work to understand if the riskbenefi­t analysis remains for all ages,” he was quoted as saying.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declined to be drawn directly into the latest warnings about the vaccine but urged people to look at the advice from Britain’s independen­t Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency.

“Their advice to people is to keep going out there, get your jab, get your second jab,” he said during a visit to an AstraZenec­a facility in Macclesfie­ld, in northwest England.

Last week, Britain’s MHRA said seven people had died in the UK due to blood clots after getting the AstraZenec­a jab. It said it wasn’t clear if the shots are causing the clot and that it was undertakin­g a “rigorous review” into the reports. The agency said it had identified 30 blood clot cases out of 18.1 million AstraZenec­a jabs given by March 24.

Adam Finn, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol, said the latest surge of Covid-19 cases that is filling up hospitals across Europe should prompt people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“If you are currently being offered a dose of Oxford-AstraZenec­a vaccine, your chances of remaining alive and well will go up if you take the vaccine and will go down if you don’t,” he said.

 ?? Photo / AP ?? Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency has identified 30 blood clot cases out of 18.1 million AstraZenec­a jabs.
Photo / AP Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency has identified 30 blood clot cases out of 18.1 million AstraZenec­a jabs.

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