Yesterday, regulators in the UK reluctantly acknowledged - or so it seemed, anyway - 25 new cases of rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Several of the individuals had died due to the complications. 5 earlier cases had been deemed not serious, but now it appears people are dying in the country that probably has the most to lose if the AstraZeneca jab were to be found defective.
After all, a massive share of Britons who have been inoculated so far were inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved for emergency use in the UK late last year, though regulators in the US are only just now starting the process of assessing its efficacy according to the trial data, and its risks.
Despite finally revealing that 7 Britons have died due to side-effects brought on by the vaccine, Britain's medicines regulator on Saturday announced that the vaccine is "safe" and that it's not clear whether the shots are causing the clots (though researchers in Germany and elsewhere appear to have found evidence of a link). Here's more from the AP:
In total, MHRA said had identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events out of 18.1 million AstraZeneca doses administered up to and including March 24. The risk associated with this type of blood clot is "very small," it added.
"The benefits of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca in preventing COVID-19 infection and its complications continue to outweigh any risks and the public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so," said Dr. June Raine, the agency’s chief executive.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands yesterday became the latest developed nation to halt administration of the vaccine. Initially, the Dutch government (where PM Mark Rutte is facing a worsening political crisis) planned to restrict vaccinations to people under the age of 60, like Germany opted to do. But they decided to simply halt vaccinations to avoid potential waste of precious vaccines. According to Reuters, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the temporary halt is "a precautionary measure," echoing language used by virtually every European leader who has restricted access to the AstraZeneca jab, which has long been an object of suspicion following unusual complications that emerged during the trials, and led to brief halts in the UK, US and elsewhere.
More European nations are expected to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine, many for the second time, following the latest revelations out of the UK, which only served to further erode trust in the EMA/WHO and their insistence that the risks of the vaccine are miniscule compared with the vast societal benefit. But fortunately for the UK, and AstraZeneca - a company that's dual headquarters are in the UK and Sweden since it was created by the merger of the Swedish Astra AB and the British Zeneca Group back in 1999 - Australia said Saturday that t will continue its inoculation program with the AZ jab.
The decision follows a highly publicized case where a 44-year-old man was admitted to a Melbourne hospital with suspicious clotting like that seen elsewhere, Suffering serious Thrombosis, a condition that prevents normal blood flow through the circulatory system, the man's case simply couldn't be ignored. After meeting hastily on Friday and Saturday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (Australia's top drug regulator) ruled that the program would continue without changes, according to Reuters. That is, at least for now.
While Australia's deputy chief medical officer, Michael Kidd, told a televised briefing Saturday afternoon that "we have not been advised at this time by ATAGI or the TGA to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneva vaccine in Australia," he simultaneously acknowledged that the clotting incident was "likely" related to the AstraZeneca jab," even as officials in the UK continue to insist that there's no evidence of a link. However, he insisted, as other public health officials have, that the risks of serious side effects remains "very low."