Some European countries suspend rollout of Oxford Covid jab - but regulator says it is safe

Friday, 12th March 2021, 11:07 am
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 11:08 am
AstraZeneca said patient safety was its “highest priority” (Photo: Getty Images)
AstraZeneca said patient safety was its “highest priority” (Photo: Getty Images)

A growing number of countries in Europe have suspended the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine over fears about blood clots.

However, the UK medicines regulator has said there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine caused blood clot problems and is urging people to continue having the vaccine when they are called.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

‘No indication’ vaccine caused clots

Denmark, Norway and Iceland have all temporarily halted all AstraZeneca vaccinations to investigate reports of blood clots among people who have had the jab.

Italy also followed Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Lithuania in banning jabs with one particular batch of one million AstraZeneca vaccines, which was sent to 17 countries.

Despite the ban, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was no evidence to suggest the vaccine was the cause of the blood clots.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also backed the vaccine’s safety and said there had been just 30 reports of blood clots among close to five million people given the vaccine across Europe.

In a statement it said: “The position of EMA’s safety committee… is that the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.”

AstraZeneca said patient safety was its “highest priority” and regulators have “clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards” for the approval of any new medicine.

It said: “The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase three clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well tolerated.”

Precautionary measures

Earlier this week the EMA reported that one person in Austria was diagnosed with blood clots and died 10 days after vaccination, but stressed there was “currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions”.

Another person was admitted to hospital with pulmonary embolism (blockage in arteries in the lungs) after being vaccinated.

Dr Phil Bryan, MHRA vaccines safety lead in the UK, said: “The Danish, Norwegian and and Icelandic authorities’ action to temporarily suspend use of the vaccine is precautionary whilst they investigate. Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon.

“More than 11 million doses of the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine have now been administered across the UK.

“Reports of blood clots received so far are not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population.”

Dr Bryan said the safety of the public always comes first and the issue was being kept under close review “but available evidence does not confirm that the vaccine is the cause”.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said: “Vaccine safety is critically important. Our UK regulator, the MHRA, review all reports of adverse events for both vaccines as they are reported.

“The public should have confidence that both vaccines used in the UK vaccination programme are safe and highly effective at preventing severe disease, including the prevention of blood clots caused by Covid.”