The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Thursday, March 18 declared the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine safe for use after it was suspended by 13 EU member states among other countries.
The move followed a meeting held by EMA to assess the connection between ‘unusual’ blood clots discovered in several cases after people were inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
By Thursday, at least five million people had been administered the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in the EU.
However, Germany, France, Spain and others temporarily halted vaccinations with the British-Swedish manufactured shot after EU member states reported 30 cases of blood clot disorders, including a rare and difficult-to-treat condition called cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT).
EMA weighs in
According to Emer Cooke, the Executive Director of EMA, the AstraZeneca vaccine is a “safe and effective option to protect citizens from Covid-19.”
The regulator noted that the benefits of the vaccine currently outweigh the risks after coming to a “clear scientific conclusion.”
Consequently, Cooke highlighted that his institution failed to “definitively rule out a link” between the vaccine and blood clots, citing that additional scientific studies will be carried into the matter.
Countries resume administering vaccine jabs
Following the initial assessment, several other European countries said they would soon re-start vaccinations with AstraZeneca doses, effective Friday, March 19.
Germany, Italy and France announced to resume administering the vaccine on Friday, officials announced.
Their plans mirror those of Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria.
Sweden also said it would make a decision next week on whether to resume administering the vaccine.
In addition, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French Prime Minister Jean Castex both said that they will be given the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.
On Tuesday, Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha became the first person to be inoculated in the country.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a tweet that it was also carrying out an investigation into the blood clots in AstraZeneca recipients but recommended that countries continue to inoculate jabs citing that the benefits outweigh the costs.
Context in developing countries
The AstraZeneca vaccine is one of the cheaper options on the market. The WHO vaccine sharing initiative COVAX framework has relied heavily on the vaccine — which is being produced not-for-profit during the pandemic.
Technically, as opposed to the other approved vaccines, the AstraZeneca shot does not need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, making it easier to store in less developed countries or less accessible areas.
Rwanda is among some 25 African countries which have already been given doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX program.
However, some of the developing countries have also joined the list to suspend its use.
This, experts have warned, may hamper the battle against the virus.