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AstraZeneca vaccine blood clots concerns addressed by Indian Government and WHO

Covid-19. Red liquid vaccine in glass tubes.. Cases of COVID-19 illustration. Image credit: Ivan Uralsky. vaccine hesitancy concept. Also to illustrate article re: emergency use authorisation. Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Also used in coverage of vaccine hoarding. Vaccination campaign concept. Cost of COVID-19 vaccine concept. vaccine shipments concept. Sputnik V illustration.. Also to illustrate vaccine stockpiling. vaccine drive concept. Blood clots concern concept.
Image credit: Ivan Uralsky / 123rf

Both the Indian government and the World Health Organization (WHO) have addressed recent concerns surrounding the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots.

Recent days saw multiple nations in Europe suspend use of the vaccine in their inoculation programmes as a precautionary measure. France, Germany, Italy, and Spain are among the countries to have taken this measure, following reports of serious blood clots among Europeans who received the shot. Thirty cases of thromboembolic events were reported among the five million inoculated using the vaccine in the European Economic Area, as of March 10th.

The news is salient for India as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, or Covishield, is among those to have received emergency authorisation use in the country and is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Covishield and Covaxin – the indigenously-manufactured vaccine by Bharat Biotech – are those being used in India. The country is also playing a major role in the global vaccination campaign.

Despite the fears over reports of adverse events among recipients, leading agencies have sought to assuage fears. Existing data suggests there is no relation between blood clots and recipience of the vaccine in question according to the European Medical Agency – and the WHO has weighed in.

In a statement, the WHO said “in extensive vaccination campaigns, it is routine for countries to signal potential adverse events following immunisation. This does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to vaccination itself, but it is good practice to investigate them. It also shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place.” 

It asserted that “the WHO COVID-19 Subcommittee of the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is carefully assessing the latest available safety data for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Once that review is completed, WHO will immediately communicate the findings to the public.” In the meantime, it said that it “considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.” 

In India, the government has said it will proceed “with full vigour” in administering the vaccine as part of its inoculation campaign against COVID-19. Dr Vinod K. Paul, a member of government think tank Niti Aayog, said the country is “watching the information being made available from other sources, but today there is no concern at all.” The Adverse Events Following Immunization committee is to meet in the coming days to review the situation. 

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