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U.K. Regulator Recommends Continued Use Of AstraZeneca Vaccine Despite 7 Deaths Linked To Blood Clots

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Topline

Britain’s medicines regulator confirmed late Friday that seven people have died from blood clots after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, but noted there is not yet substantiated proof the extremely rare blood-clotting events are directly related to the shots, and that benefits of the vaccine outweigh any risks.

Key Facts

Out of more than 18 million AstraZeneca doses administered through March 24, only 30 occurrences of blood clot cases had been identified, according to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. 

Of those 30 cases, 22 included reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (when clotting forms in the veins that drain blood from the brain), and the other eight were linked to thrombosis events with low platelets.

The MHRA confirmed they were conducting a “rigorous review” of the issue while noting the risk is “very small.”

Dr. June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, asserted the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine (preventing infection and its complications) “continue to outweigh any risks” and that all individuals should get vaccinated when they have the opportunity to do so. 

Regulators affirmed they had not received any reports of blood-clotting issues linked to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Crucial Quote: 

“Receiving the vaccine is by far the safest choice in terms of minimizing individual risk of serious illness or death,” Adam Finn, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol, told the Associated Press, noting that resultant blood clots were an “extreme rarity.” 

Key Background:

Last month, several European countries temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of a potential link to blood clots, while others have restricted its use in certain at-risk age groups. Earlier this week, German health officials suspended the vaccine’s use in people under 60 after the country’s medical regulator said it found 31 cases of blood-clotting incidents. On Friday, the Netherlands temporarily suspended the vaccine for individuals under 60 after the death of a woman there who had been given an AstraZeneca shot. 

Tangent:

Both the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization have confirmed they agree with the MHRA, determining that the pros of AstraZeneca exceed the risks. The EMA issued the statement Thursday after conferring with a panel of independent experts from several countries, including Canada, Germany, France and Spain. The public should be aware of the “remote possibility” of blood clots occurring, the statement read, adding, “a causal link with the vaccine is not proven, but is possible, and further analysis is continuing. Thursday’s statement builds on an earlier finding from the EMA in mid-March, that it could not rule out a link with blood clots, although it found the vaccine to be “safe and effective” following an extensive review prompted by the suspensions. 

Big Number:

0.0000016%. That’s the percentage of U.K. residents (30 out of 18.1 million) that have experienced a blood-clotting issue after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Further Reading:

Half Of All U.K. Adults Have Received First Covid-19 Vaccine Shot (Forbes) 

UK regulator says AstraZeneca jab safe after 7 clot deaths (AP) 

Germany to restrict AstraZeneca use in under-60s over clots (AP)

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