Europe’s drug regulator reiterated that there was “no indication” that AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine causes blood clots, as Sweden became the latest country to pause inoculations with the shot.
“We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risk of these side effects,” said Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, at a press briefing on Tuesday.
She added that the number of blood clots reported in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population. “We know that many thousands of people develop blood clots in the EU so what we want is to establish whether these events are caused by the vaccine or by other causes,” Cooke said.
The EMA is investigating the cases and will discuss the results of its findings at a review on Thursday, after which they will be made public.
The World Health Organization has urged countries to keep vaccination campaigns going, saying there was no evidence the vaccine developed by the Anglo-Swedish drug company and the University of Oxford caused clotting issues. Its vaccine safety experts are due to meet later on Tuesday to discuss the shot.
However, on Tuesday Sweden’s health authority said it was pausing use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as a “precautionary measure,” pending an investigation by the EMA into possible side effects following reports of blood clots in people that had received the shot.
“There is good knowledge about this vaccine, but it is still important that we pause the vaccination until the EMA has investigated whether these events could be linked to the jabs,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist.
Sweden’s decision comes after major European countries — including Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands — moved to pause the administration of AstraZeneca’s vaccine over safety fears.
Cooke said on Tuesday that she was concerned that the decisions by governments to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine could undermine public trust for vaccines. “Our job is to make sure that the products we authorize are safe and can be trusted by European citizens,” she said.
said on Sunday that it had conducted a review covering more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the U.K. which had shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.
Shares in AstraZeneca
which have fallen by 1.52% so far this year, were trading 3.35% higher in late morning London trading on Tuesday.
The European suspensions will increase pressure on the 27-member bloc’s inoculation efforts, which have been plagued by supply shortages, partly due to manufacturing issues at some plants in the bloc.
Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine have all said they would continue to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Thailand announced that it would start using the vaccine on Tuesday, following a brief delay to the rollout over safety concerns.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood by AstraZeneca’s vaccine, saying that health experts and scientists had assured him all vaccines being administered in the country were safe and effective. “Therefore, the very best vaccine for you to take is the first one that is offered to you,” he said on Monday.