EMA finds ‘possible link’ between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots
Europe’s medicines regulator, the EMA, have announced a ‘possible link’ this afternoon (Wednesday) between the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and rare blood clotting issues in adults who received the shot, and that packaging should carry a warning of the rare side effects. It comes after a review of all currently available evidence into extremely rare cases of unusual blood clots in some vaccinated people.
Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, said in a press conference that the regulator’s safety committee “has confirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 overall outweigh the risks of side effects.”
The EMA’s safety committee “after a very in-depth analysis has concluded that the reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible rare side effects of the vaccine,” said Cooke. “A plausible explanation for these rare side effects is an immune response to the vaccine similar to one seen in patients treated with heparin,”, noting that it’s called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been dogged by safety concerns in recent weeks, with several European countries briefly suspending their use of the vaccine last month. The EMA said on March 31st that they had found it to be safe and effective, but added they could not rule out the possibility of a causal link between the vaccine and clotting events so would continue to investigate.
The World Health Organization, the UK’s medicines regulator and the International Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis have all said that the benefits of administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot far outweigh the risks. AstraZeneca has previously said its studies have found no higher risk of blood clots as a result of its vaccine.
Most countries have since resumed use of the shot but many have suspended inoculations across certain age groups. A senior official at Europe’s medicines regulator reportedly said Tuesday that there is a clear “association” between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and very rare blood clots in the brain, though the direct cause was not yet known.
In an interview with Italian newspaper Il Messaggero published yesterday (Tuesday), Marco Cavaleri, chairman of the EMA’s vaccine evaluation team, said: “In my opinion we can now say it, it is clear that there is an association with the vaccine. However, we still do not know what causes this reaction.”
UK vaccine trial in children paused:
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the body that approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the UK, has been looking at the data following a handful of reports, both in the UK and in continental Europe, of serious but rare blood clots, some of which have been fatal.
A UK trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on children had already been paused while the medicines regulator investigated a possible link between the vaccine and the blood clotting disorders, specifically, cases of blood clots in veins within the brain, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) as well as thrombocytopenia (low levels of blood platelets which help the blood to clot).
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The UK government noted that, up to and including March 24th, there had been 22 reports of CVST and 8 reports of other thrombosis events with low platelets, out of a total of 18.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine (a two-dose shot) given by that date.