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Restoring confidence in AstraZeneca


The World Health Organization (WHO) said it trusted people’s uncertainty about AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine could be overcome, following its temporary suspension in several countries in Europe and around the world on fears of blood clotting.

“It’s a great vaccine,” WHO expert Bruce Aylward said on Friday.

The WHO said people would be reassured that the safety and monitoring systems in place had proved their worth.

“This happens with new products,” said WHO emergency relief coordinator Mike Ryan, noting that medicines are checked again following their roll-out.

A number of EU countries were rolling out the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine once again on Friday, lifting their suspensions after receiving new safety assurances from the European Union’s medicines regulator. The vaccinations resumed in several states in Germany, while in neighbouring France Prime Minister Jean Castex was injected with the AstraZeneca formulation in front of television cameras.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalised last year with a severe bout of Covid-19, also received his first dose of the jab later on Friday.

“Let’s get the jab done,” Johnson wrote in a post on Twitter, along with a picture of him getting the shot. “Getting the jab is the best thing we can do to get back to the lives we miss so much,” he added.

Governments are trying to bolster damaged public confidence in the vaccine after its use was halted starting late last week in several Nordic countries over cases of blood clots in a handful of recipients.

Then other nations such as Germany, France, Italy and Spain ordered their own pauses to the AstraZeneca jab pending a new assessment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The regulator said on Thursday evening that the vaccine was “safe and effective” after an extensive review of possible blood clot risks.

The EMA concluded that the vaccine was not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots, although it could not definitively rule out a link between cases of rare, very serious clotting disorders, mostly in younger women.

With that asterisk still hanging over the jab, France and Germany were among the countries to issue advice on who should get it.

France’s top health authority on Friday recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine only for people over the age of 55 due to the possible increased risk of a certain type of brain clot in younger people. — dpa

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