AstraZeneca: EU health expert quizzed on 'political' decision
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The Oxford jab was suspended by 13 EU countries, including Italy, Germany and France, after reports of blood clots as one of the side effects of the vaccine. Now Belgium is looking to capitalise from the suspension by asking AstraZeneca to send supplies meant for its neighbours.
Flemish Minister of Welfare Wouter Beke (CD&V) told the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday: “I contacted AstraZeneca and asked if it is possible to use the extras, if there are any.
“If we can get them, we will use them in our strategy.
“I have been informed that they are investigating our question and that they are waiting for the message from the EMA tomorrow.
“Because I think some countries have pushed the pause button, but want to restart as soon as possible.”
The European Medicines Agency has deemed the vaccine safe to use. It is due to publish an update of its assessment of the jab today.
The EU regulator has said it has so far found no causal link between the vaccine and the incidents.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also said there was no proven link and people should not panic.
Belgium’s head of the Vaccination Task Force, Dirk Ramaekers, told Niewsblad AstraZeneca’s deliveries will continue as usual and each European member state, therefore, receives its agreed amount of vaccines.
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He said: “But when a country suspends its campaign for a particular vaccine and then decides to re-administer the vaccine, public confidence in this vaccine will be a lot lower.
“So there is a chance that if the campaign is restarted in other countries, it will be more difficult for them to market the AstraZeneca vaccines.”
Asked whether Belgium could claim vaccines from countries that had put their AstraZeneca vaccine campaign on hold, he added: “Belgium is certainly asking to take over these vaccines. In this way, we can speed up our vaccination campaign and therefore we can reach the target vaccination coverage more quickly.”
Belgium’s health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said earlier this week “taking a break at this stage would be irresponsible” and the country would continue to follow the advice of the EMA.
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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also hit out against his EU counterparts over their decision to suspend AstraZeneca.
Mr Mitsotakis said he had no intention to follow suit.
He said “at the level of the European regulator there is no confusion whatsoever” – a stark contrast with the doom-mongering from Paris and Berlin.
The Greek leader said the EMA “has been very, very clear in telling us that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine clearly outweigh the potential costs”.
He added: “Greece was one of the few countries that went against the trend and we are currently continuing with our AstraZeneca vaccination program.
“I don’t understand why decisions have to be taken at the level of individual member states. We have aligned ourselves fully with EMA recommendations.
“And until further notice we will continue with our AstraZeneca vaccination program.”
More than 45 million COVID shots by all manufacturers have been administered across the EU and the European Economic Area since vaccinations started almost three months ago.
The EU regulator is investigating reports of 30 cases of unusual blood disorders out of 5 million people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine in the EU.
The EMA’s focus and primary concern is on cases of blood clots in the head, a rare condition that’s difficult to treat called cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT).
In Germany, seven people aged 20 to 50 have been diagnosed with CVT up to 16 days after vaccination as per Monday, according to the national vaccine authority Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI). Based on the known rate of CVT in the general population, the PEI would have expected one case in 1.6 million.
Britain has administered more than 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and reports of blood clots were no greater than would have occurred naturally. The UK’s medicine regulator has urged Britons to keep on getting their vaccines, including the AstraZeneca shot.
Canada has said health experts are sure all COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the country are safe, including AstraZeneca’s.
AstraZeneca said on Sunday a review of safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the United Kingdom and European Union with its vaccine had shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.
On Tuesday, both France and Italy admitted the decision to suspend the jab had been “political”, followed merely by Germany’s decision to hit pause on the vaccine.
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