AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine under fire again

Several European countries have decided to suspend vaccination with the drug after several cases of thrombosis
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REUTERS/DAO RUVIC  -   Several European countries have decided to suspend vaccination with the drug after several cases of thrombosis

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a scientific race for the vaccine, the last remedy to put an end to this terrible year. Countries and pharmaceutical companies have pulled out all the stops to produce an efficient and safe immunogen against the coronavirus.

But with the arrival of the long-awaited vaccine, other problems have arisen: logistical problems, distribution problems, unfulfilled contracts. .... And in a new setback, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is starting to be called into question because of possible serious side effects.

The European Union reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical company to purchase 300 million doses worth 336 million euros. But several European countries have recently decided to suspend vaccination of an AstraZeneca batch following several cases of thrombosis. 

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AFP/JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Austria suspended vaccinations with doses from batch ABV5300 on Sunday after a 49-year-old woman died of a thrombus ten days after receiving the vaccine. Comprising one million doses, the ABV5300 batch has been distributed in 17 European countries, including Spain. Four countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg) have stopped administering vaccines from this batch, following in the footsteps of the Austrian country.

New European countries have joined this suspension, such as Denmark, Norway and Iceland, while waiting for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to clarify whether the administration of the drug is related to several cases of thrombosis in patients who had received it in different EU countries.

For its part, the Spanish Ministry of Health has assured that there have been no adverse events such as the one in Austria. In addition, the EMA, following the problems caused by a batch of AstraZeneca's vaccine and its subsequent cancellation of inoculation in several European countries, has reviewed the cases under an emergency procedure to issue a recommendation in favour of continued administration of the drug.

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AFP/AFP - AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine fact sheet

"The benefits - of AstraZeneca's vaccine - continue to outweigh the risks and it can continue to be administered while the investigation of thromboembolism cases is ongoing," the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a statement yesterday.

"The number of episodes of thromboembolism in vaccinated persons is not higher than the number observed in the general population," the EMA said in the statement. "Up to 10 March 2021, 30 cases of thromboembolism episodes have been reported among the approximately 5 million people vaccinated with AstraZeneca in the European Economic Area."

This is not the first time that the effectiveness of AstraZeneca's vaccine has been called into question. Earlier this year the European Commission and the pharmaceutical company clashed after AstraZeneca reneged on its contract to deliver the agreed doses to all 27 countries in the first quarter of the year. In response, several European countries, including Spain, vetoed the use of this vaccine in the population over 65 years of age, based on the lack of scientific evidence to support its efficacy in this age group.