Sir Kent Woods, former Chief Executive of Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), was commenting after Germany once again suspending the use of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine to all people under the age of 60. The AstraZeneca vaccine has faced repeated challenges from EU states over safety concerns following reports of blood clotting in a small number of cases. Sir Kent described the move by Berlin as “precautionary” and added that the clotting cases are “confined to younger women.”
He said: “I think this is a highly precautionary step on the part of the German authorities.
“It runs counter to the advice of the European medicines Agency as been giving in relation to this vaccine.
“The caution I think is based on the pattern of blood clotting that has been reported in these very small number of cases.
“There are many things we still don’t know about this.”
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Sir Kent continued: “It’s curious that this seems to be confined to women, younger women.
“It is also not clear to me yet how many of these are absolutely distinctive and how many are the types of thrombotic event, clotting event which is not a rare event in the general population.
“So I think this is very much a precautionary step.
“It is unfortunate because of its impact on public confidence in the vaccination programme because there have been a number of changes of direction in both Germany and in France as to the age groups who should be given the AstraZeneca vaccine, as to its efficacy.”
The pharmaceutical giant has defended its product pointing out that authorities in Britain, the European Union as well as the World Health Organization have found the product’s benefits to significantly outweigh the risks across all adult age groups.
AstraZeneca has also conducted a review of safety data from more than 17 million people inoculated in the UK and EU and found no evidence that the vaccine raised the risk of blood clots.
Meanwhile, a long-awaited study in the US recently found the efficacy rate of the AstraZeneca vaccine was 76 percent.
The results were published last week and it initially found the rate was 79 percent, before being revised down after the latest information was included.