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EU vaccine strategy on brink of collapse as EMA threatens U-turn on AstraZeneca use

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is reviewing the safety of the AstraZeneca jab as concerns rise over the vaccine’s potential links to blood clots. The move could see the jab banned in the European Union despite the bloc having 60 million doses on order. The decision could have devastating consequences for the EU’s vaccine rollout timeline which has already been swamped with delays.

France24 reporter Fernande van Tets told viewers there has been a shift in attitude by the EMA on the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

She explained how despite the EMA “repeating for weeks that everyone should keep vaccinating” and the agency having “been very clear about this from the start”, the move could undermine the take-up of the vaccine further.

She said: “That of course throws a real spanner in the works of the EU’s vaccination strategy, recently they said they were hoping to have 70% of the EU’s population to be vaccinated by June.”

Ms van Tets added: “Of course it really undermines confidence in the vaccine as we just heard people refusing to take it.”

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The reporter added: “If you put this into perspective, in the UK for example, 18 million people had been vaccinated (at the time of the survey) and only 30 of them had blood clots, so that’s one in 600,000, the EMA are looking at 1 in 100,000.”

She said how previously “They (the EMA) say that there is a risk-benefit analysis” but their tone had changed.

She raised concerns about how in the second quarter of this year alone the EMA “are expecting 60 million doses of AstraZeneca to be delivered”.

“So if you take that out of the equation then that timeline is really coming into question. That is really counting on AstraZeneca being one of the four vaccines used,” she added.

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Earlier the head of vaccine strategy at the EMA Marco Cavaleri told an Italian newspaper that it is “increasingly difficult to say that there is no cause and effect relationship” between the AstraZeneca jab and the rare cases of blood clots in the brain.

He said the EMA will rule on the future of the rollout of the jab in the European Union later despite 60 million AstraZeneca jabs expected to arrive in the second quarter of this year.

But speaking to Channel 4 News, SAGE group member Prof Calum Semple assured viewers that the blood clot concerns should not put people off getting the jab.

He said: “Far more people than that die of straight forward strokes.”

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He added how this “kind of stroke” caused by the vaccine is “a rare one” and it only counts for “about 1 percent of strokes”.

The academic also added context to the data of the blood clots: “Some people catch Covid around the time of vaccination and this makes it incredibly difficult to tease apart causation and association (of the blood clots.)

He added how “one way of getting clots is to catch Covid.”

The Moderna vaccine began being rolled out across the UK  on Wednesday, making it the third vaccine available to Britons.



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