Daily Management Review

EU Countries Suspending AstraZeneca Vaccine May Have Wider Impacts


EU Countries Suspending AstraZeneca Vaccine May Have Wider Impacts
Analysts say that there will be far-reaching consequences of many European countries deciding to suspend the use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca even as the wider vaccine roll out program in the continent lags behind its announced targets.
Concerns over blood clots after being administered the vaccine have led many European countries to announce suspension of the use of the vaccine and Sweden and Latvia were the latest to join that list on Tuesday after the same was announced earlier last week by Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Ireland. The countries said that this was only a precautionary measure to give them time to check the claims of blood clotting and whether such claims have any link with the vaccine shots.
The safety concerns have seemingly been downplayed by the World Health Organization, drug regulators and the vaccine maker itself as they said that there is no evidence at the moment to make any suggestions that the vaccine shots created an increased risk of developing blood clots which can be considered to be a common occurrence among the general population.
Countries have been urged, kin particular by the WHO, to not suspend use of the vaccine in their vaccination programs. The available data on the vaccine and its safety is being reviewed by its advisory committee on vaccine safety and the WHO is also in close contact with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) - the drug regulator of the European Union, the global health body said.
The safety committee of WHO meet on the Tuesday while the EMA is meeting on Thursday and more expert guidance is expected to be announced shortly after those safety reviews.
Reacting to a question on whether there will be lowering of public trust in the vaccine because of the EU member states’ decisions to pause the use of the vaccine, Emer Cooke, executive director of the EMA, said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the agency was “worried that there may be an effect on the trust of the vaccines but our job is to make sure the products we authorize are safe.”
On previous occasions, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was also questioned about its trial methodology and data and the efficacy of the shot in the over-65s. The drugmaker also had a public spat with the EU over the delivery of supplies to the bloc.
There are however questions being asked about whether the countries that have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine have taken the correct decision and whether such decisions will damage vaccine confidence further or could even lead to loss of lives in the face of a third wave of infections emerging from Paris to Prague.
“At this stage, it is likely national regulators are acting conservatively and out of an abundance of caution, in the belief a risk-averse approach will help reassure the public and limit the impact on uptake going forward. But the prospect of a longer review or an outright ban cannot be ruled out,” Federico Santi, senior Europe analyst at Eurasia Group, said in a note Monday.
“Either way, the damage is done. Willingness to take the AstraZeneca vaccine had already been lower than the mRNA vaccines available in the EU due to lower headline efficacy numbers and the initial confusion over its suitability for over 65s,” he said.
“We know where this is going to lead, it’s going to lead to a loss of confidence in the vaccine,” Natasha Loder, health policy editor at the Economist told the BBC’s Today program on Tuesday.