The World Health Organization’s vaccine safety experts were due to meet Tuesday to discuss the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, as more European countries temporarily halt its rollout over blood clot concerns.
On Tuesday, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Latvia and Sweden became the latest European nations to suspend its use, despite advice from international medical agencies that the benefits of getting shots into arms outweigh any potential risks.
Despite this development, WHO has appealed to countries to keep vaccination campaigns going, saying there was no evidence the vaccine caused clotting issues as investigations are ongoing by Europe’s medicines regulator, the European Medical Authority (EMA).
“As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.
EMA Executive Director, Emer Cooke Cooke stated that EMA is looking into blood clot report in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines too, and the final outcome of the agency’s review is set to come on Thursday.
But much of Europe has gone against that advice in recent days, as the decisions were coordinated in France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been authorized for use in dozens of countries globally, has not yet been given the green light by regulators in the United States.
The Denmark was the first to press pause on the AstraZeneca vaccine last Thursday as a “precautionary measure” after a Danish woman died hours after vaccination due to low number of platelets, blood clots in small and large vessels and bleeding.
Another death was reported in Norway on Monday, along with a handful of non-fatal cases with similar “unusual” adverse reactions.
AstraZeneca, meanwhile, has doubled down on the safety of its vaccine. In a statement on Sunday, the pharmaceutical giant said that of the 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the United Kingdom so far, blood clot incidents were “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population.”