World WHO meets on Tuesday to study the safety of...

WHO meets on Tuesday to study the safety of AstraZeneca vaccine

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WHO – Salvatore At Nolfi / AP / SIPA

The safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus, suspended by several European countries worried about possible serious side effects, will be examined this Tuesday by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO).

On Monday, as a precaution, seven additional European states (Germany, France, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal and Latvia) suspended the administration of the vaccine from the Swedish-British laboratory AstraZeneca. Serious blood problems, such as difficulty in clotting or the formation of blood clots (thrombosis), have been seen in some people who have been vaccinated. They are awaiting an opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

“No relationship found between these events and the vaccine”

By then, the WHO Expert Advisory Group on Immunization – which “has reviewed the data and is in close contact with the European Medicines Agency” – is meeting on Tuesday, to review the safety of the vaccine, announced Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. But the organization, on the front line in the international fight against the pandemic, is already recommending continuing to vaccinate against Covid-19 with AstraZeneca. “We don’t want people to panic and, for now, we recommend that countries continue to vaccinate with AstraZeneca,” WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

“So far, we have not found a connection between these events and the vaccine,” she added. The EMA, which will hold an “extraordinary meeting” on Thursday on the vaccine, also said its benefits always outweigh the risks. The Netherlands suspended vaccination with AstraZeneca on Sunday, as did Ireland, after the report in Norway of four new serious cases of blood clots in vaccinated adults. Norway did the same last week, as did Denmark, Iceland and Bulgaria.

Production agreements for Sputnik V

Venezuela will not allow the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine “due to complications” on vaccinated patients, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Monday. Indonesia has announced the postponement of the launch of its vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca, pending advice from the WHO. Conversely, Georgia and Sierra Leone have launched their campaign with this vaccine, sweeping aside fears of side effects. The laboratory defends itself: there is “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in the phenomenon of blood clots here in the United Kingdom”, said Monday Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group who developed the vaccine with AstraZeneca.

For the laboratory, these disappointments are added to a further drop in its deliveries to the European Union by June, which AstraZeneca was forced to announce, citing export problems. Russia, for its part, announced that it had found production agreements for its Sputnik V vaccine “with companies from Italy, Spain, France and Germany”, pending its approval in the EU.

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