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Uptake in people getting the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is not slowing in the UK, despite some European countries pausing their rollouts over concerns about links to rare blood clots.
The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events linked with low platelets out of 18.1m doses of the jab administered up to and including March 24, but stressed the benefits “continue to outweigh any risks”. Of these 30 reports, the MHRA said, seven people had died.
A causal link between the jab and clots has not been proved but investigations are continuing.
Scientists are still urging people to come forward to get the vaccine, saying it is safe and the greater risk is from not having the vaccine.
Prof Linda Bauld, from Edinburgh University, told BBC Scotland on Saturday: “These kinds of pauses and reviews are a sign that the system is working.
“Because when you see either deaths or unlikely adverse events that you wouldn’t anticipate or you didn’t see in the trials it’s reasonable for regulators to look at this.
“The MHRA is still consistently saying there’s no cause for concern and that is absolutely the message to people.”
Prof Paul Hunter, a medical microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a causal link may be proved.
“It is not uncommon to get clusters of rare events purely by chance,” he said. “But once you find that cluster in one population and it then crops up in another – such as previously in the German and now in the English – then I think the chances of that being a random association is very, very low.”
The 30 cases include 22 reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), and eight of other events with low platelets. CVST stops blood draining from the brain properly.
Hunter told the Guardian on Friday that it would not put him off getting the vaccine, and that the number of cases made events rare. “Risk of death is still much, much greater in people who are unvaccinated than in people who have had the [Oxford] vaccine,” he said.
“It would not put me off my next dose.”
In the last month, Germany, Italy, France and Spain paused the vaccine’s rollout while the European Medicines Agency (EMA) investigates. It was joined by the Netherlands on Friday. The EMA is expected to publish new guidance on 7 April.
Both the World Health Organization and the EMA have said countries should continue to use the jab. The executive director of the EMA said there was “no evidence” to support the restriction of its use.
It followed a wrangle over contracts between the EU and AstraZeneca, as the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the drugmaker had not delivered on a promised deal, and that vaccines made in the UK should be shipped to Europe.
In Germany confidence has lagged since a newspaper report in January said it only had 8% efficacy in people over 65 and was “hardly effective”. In an attempted show of support, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she would have the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the country is still behind the UK in the number of people who have had their first dose.
Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the MHRA, said: “The benefits of Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca in preventing Covid-19 infection and its complications continue to outweigh any risks and the public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.”
Source: The Guardian
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