One day after the EMA left the door open to the possibility that the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID jab might have harmful side effects for a small subset of patients, researchers in Germany are claiming to have determined the link between the vaccine and the rare blood clots that have resulted in a handful of deaths.
German public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk reported that researchers at the Greifswald teaching hospital in northern Germany claimed on Friday to have discovered the cause of the rare blood clotting found in some recipients of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, most notably a trio of Norwegian health care workers, one of whom died due to complications arising from the condition.
Hours before the EMA released its final safety assessment on Thursday, a top Norwegian government doctor claimed to have found a potential link between the vaccine and the rare reaction.
But some cases also involved a rare thrombosis (ie clots) in the brain. For these cases, the German researchers claimed common medicine could be used to treat the condition when and if it arises.
Germany, along with several other EU member states, suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday following reports of unusual blood clots, though a dozen states have already re-started vaccinations.
On Friday, the WHO largely confirmed the EMA's findings. And in the US, officials moved ahead with a program to donate some of the American stock to Canada and Mexico as the FDA looks set to approve the AstraZeneca jab in the near future. The agency added the jab has "tremendous potential" since the jab accounts for 90% of the vaccines distributed through COVAX, the WHO-Gates Foundation scheme to vaccinate the entire world by providing vaccines to poorer countries for free.
By Thursday, Germany had administered over 10MM doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including the AstraZeneca vaccine. While Europe continues to lag the US and Europe in terms of the percentage of its population who have received the vaccine, the total number of dose distributed in the West now exceeds the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases several times over.
As for how to identify any potential risk factors, the team said patients exhibiting certain symptoms, like dizziness, for more than three days, should receive another check-up by a doctor. This might further strain health-care systems, but it could help save lives in the rare cases where a reaction may occur.
While a dozen EU countries, including Italy, France and Germany, re-started use of the shot on Friday, Finland was a notable holdout. After halting vaccinations last week, the country pledged to carry out an independent review of two possible cases of blood clots.