SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There may be a link between a rare form of thrombosis and the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, but the advantages of the vaccine outweigh the disadvantages, the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency said on Wednesday afternoon.
Unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should now be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria, as the AstraZeneca vaccine is now known, the EMA said. The EMA said it had come to this conclusion after looking at ‘all currently available evidence, including the advice from an ad hoc expert group.’
In total, the EMA experts looked at 86 cases across Europe, of which 18 were fatal. Some 34 million people in Europe have so far been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca product.
‘The benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive it. The vaccine is effective at preventing Covid-19 and reducing hospitalisations and deaths,’ the EMA said.
At the same time, the agency said it is reminding healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within two weeks of vaccination.
‘So far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination. Based on the currently available evidence, specific risk factors have not been confirmed,’ the statement said.
The Netherlands is one of a number of countries which stopped using the vaccine for a second time last week and the health ministry has not yet said what should happen now.
Health minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that the national health council will publish its recommendations on Thursday morning, after speaking to thrombosis experts.
So far, some 400,000 people have been given the vaccine in the Netherlands and there have been five reports of this apparent side effect. All victims were female, and one woman died.
Thrombosis experts said at the weekend the government’s decision to again halt the use of the vaccine was incomprehensible and accused ministers of failing to consult them.
‘All my colleagues are baffled,’ thrombosis expert Saskia Middeldorp told broadcaster NOS. ‘It is as if the people who decide this don’t realise the implications for our vaccination programme.’
DutchNews is aware of several women who say they will refuse to have the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the apparent risks.