Shameless Macron suspended AstraZeneca vaccine just because Merkel did, minister admits

AstraZeneca: Expert criticises Merkel and Macron over suspension

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President Emmanuel Macron announced a temporary suspension of the Oxford-produced jab over unsubstantiated fears it causes blood clots. The French leader yesterday said: “The decision has been made to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution, hoping that we can resume its use quickly if the judgement of the EMA allows it.” The EMA, the EU’s drugs watchdog, has said the benefits of the vaccine “outweigh the risks of side effects”.

Paris joined fellow member states, such as Germany, Italy and Spain, in stopping the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine even while their national jabs programmes are floundering.

A French minister has hinted Mr Macron took the decision to suspend the Oxford jab simply because Berlin had done the same.

The insider told the Politico website it was “because we would have three days of stress after the German decision”.

And French industry minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said refusing to pause the jabs would have fuelled “mistrust”.

“There must not be public mistrust. If you see decisions taken in other countries, the risk is that a mistrust of the vaccine develops,” she said.

The head of Italy’s medicines watchdog has branded the decision to stop using AstraZeneca a “political one”.

Nicola Magrini, director general of AIFA, said: “We got to the point of a suspension because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt vaccinations…to put them on hold in order to carry out checks. The choice is a political one.”

France is expected to review its decision later today when the EMA publishes new data.

Announcing the decision in Berlin, German health minister Jens Spahn said the decision “is a purely precautionary measure”

“The most important thing for confidence is transparency,” he added.

The move has been replicated in 14 countries across the EU in total.

Ireland, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Romania, Latvia, Austria, Lithuania, Estonia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Bulgaria, have also announced suspensions of the AstraZeneca jab.

It followed a reports of a small number of blood clots among people who had received the jab.

The EMA is due to publish further analysis on the reports of blood clots today but says the jab is safe.

The EU regulator said: “While its investigation is ongoing, the EMA currently remains of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.”

Experts hit out at the EU countries for suspending use of the jab despite evidence suggesting the move is unjustified.

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Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from the University of Cambridge, said: “These pauses, I don’t think you can consider these as being cautious.

“They actually could be doing more harm than good. If it means there is a delay in rolling out the vaccine to people who would otherwise have a vaccine, then that will cause harm.

“I’ve looked at AstraZeneca reports and they’ve said that 17 million jabs across the EU and the UK had been administered, and they’ve had about 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 cases of pulmonary embolism reported.”

Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford University vaccine group, said regulators were right to investigate but insisted safety data was “very reassuring”.

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He said around 3,000 cases of blood clots occur every month in the UK from other causes.

He added: “When you then put a vaccination campaign on top of that, clearly those blood clots still happen and you’ve got to then try and separate out whether, when they occur, they are at all related to the vaccine or not.”

Dr Phil Bryan, the MHRA vaccines safety lead, said the number of blood clots reported among more than 11 million people who have received the Oxford jab in the UK was no higher than would be expected to occur naturally.

He said: “We are closely reviewing reports but the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause.

“People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so.”

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