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19 Mar 2021
3 min read

EU Members Return to AstraZeneca after Regulatory Backing

EU Members Return to AstraZeneca after Regulatory Backing

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Key Takeaways

  • European Medicines Agency approves the restart of AstraZeneca vaccinations
  • Several European countries are set to renew the shots on Friday

The European Union’s health agency, the European Medicines Agency, approved the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine. The agency’s safety committee found the vaccine to be “safe and effective in preventing Covid-19, and its benefits outweigh its risk,” affirmed Sabine Straus, committee chair.

The vaccine, developed by the UK drugmaker in partnership with Oxford University, spurred a worldwide debate over its potential adverse health effects after several people died from blood clotting following their vaccinations.

“A causal link with the vaccine is not proven, but is possible and deserves further analysis,” the EU regulator announced in its report on Thursday. The investigation concluded: “These are rare cases – around 20 million people in the UK and EEA had received the vaccine as of March 16 and EMA had reviewed only 7 cases of blood clots in multiple blood vessels. A causal link with the vaccine is not proven, but is possible and deserves further analysis.”

The European Medicines Agency stated that the “benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks despite a possible link to rare blood clots.” Following the announcement, AstraZeneca confirmed that the opinion is in line with the vaccine’s characteristics and benefits. “We trust that, after the regulators’ careful decisions, vaccinations can once again resume across Europe,” said AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, Ann Tayler, while the head of the EU agency, Emer Cooke, stated, “If it were me, I would be vaccinated tomorrow”.

Several European countries already announced they would resume giving AstraZeneca vaccinations to their nations on Friday or early next week. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece and Belgium have confirmed they will restart the vaccination program using AstraZeneca. Some EU countries, however, including Sweden and Norway, said they are making their own investigations and will decide at a later point if they will continue administering the vaccine. Countries outside Europe such as Australia, Canada and India are also renewing their AstraZeneca vaccination programs.

European Vaccination Campaign Still Struggles

The European Union remains in a tough spot in its efforts to vaccinate the population. The European Commission has been struggling to secure enough doses of the vaccine after AstraZeneca reduced the promised vaccine doses for the first quarter from 90 million to under 30 million doses. In addition, UK’s National Health Service warned on Thursday that new vaccine shortfalls could be expected for the month of April. Emily Lawson, NHS chief commercial officer and the person in charge of leading the vaccine distribution, said there could be a “significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers” as soon as the last week of March.

Meanwhile in the US, President Joe Biden praised the efforts over the vaccine rollout across the states. Back in December, President Biden set a goal to administer 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office. “I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans. That’s weeks ahead of schedule,” Joe Biden said in a brief speech on Thursday. As per data from the CDC, the US has so far administered over 115 million doses, of which 16.5 million were given before the inauguration day.

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