London & Europe::
Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries that say they will resume using the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine after the European medicines regulator declared it was “safe and effective”.
Other nations due to restart the Oxford jab rollout include Portugal, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Bulgaria.
Sweden says it will take a decision about its paused rollout next week, while Ireland expects to announce on Friday its decision on whether to restart its AstraZeneca programme.
Around a dozen European countries had suspended its use earlier this week after reports of rare blood disorders in a handful of people who had recently received the jab.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the benefits of the jab in protecting people from coronavirus-related death or hospitalisation outweigh the possible risks – and the vaccine is not linked to an “overall risk” of blood clots.
However, the agency’s safety committee has also said it can’t rule out a potential link with a “small number of cases” of a rare clotting disorder occurring after the vaccination.
It has therefore recommended that governments “raise awareness” of the possible effects by including them in product information.
“Drawing attention to these possible rare conditions and providing information to healthcare professionals and vaccinated people will help to spot and mitigate the possible side effects,” said EMA executive director Emer Cooke.
Earlier on Thursday, the UK’s medicines regulator said anyone who experiences a persistent headache for more than four days after the jab should seek medical attention, as should those with bruising in places other than the injection site after a few days.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said this new advice was a “precautionary measure” after a “very small” number of reports of sinus vein thrombosis (CVST) occurring with thrombocytopenia after the vaccine.
CVST is an extremely rare form of blood clot, while thrombocytopenia describes a low number of platelets – the cells that help clot blood.
In the UK, there have been five cases of these co-occurring conditions reported to the MHRA after vaccination.
That’s a rate of one in one million vaccinated people. The MHRA said this could also naturally occur whether people have had the jab or not, or if they have COVID.
Concerns about the vaccine were initially raised after a report from the Norwegian Medicines Agency revealed blood clotting events in four adults who had the COVID jab.
AstraZeneca also said after a thorough review of its coronavirus immunisation data, that it found no evidence of any increased risk of blood clots in any age group or gender in any country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) added its weight behind the debate ahead of the EMA’s announcement, urging countries to continue using the jab.