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WHO backs AstraZeneca COVID vaccine amid clotting concerns

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that it was aware of blood clot concerns linked to “a specific batch” of AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, but maintained that to date, no-one has died from any coronavirus vaccine.

WHO spokesperson, Dr Margaret Harris, in a videoconference in Geneva, said the development came after several European countries suspended the rollout of the jab as a precaution.

“As of 9 March, there have been over 268 million doses of vaccine delivered since the start of the pandemic,

“Based on data reported – that’s data reported to WHO by national governments – no causes of death have been found or been caused by COVID-19 vaccines to date,” Harris said.

She noted that the WHO’s independent expert global advisory board, SAGE, was currently assessing reports on the AstraZeneca vaccine and that those findings would be made public as soon as they were available.

According to her, blood clotting episodes are common in people “so it’s not clear if this is something that is going to happen,” or whether the vaccine is responsible.

“A causal relationship ….has not been shown,” she said, while also underscoring that the European Union medical agencies’ risk assessment committee, Pharmacovigilance, had also decided that the vaccine’s benefits “continue to outweigh the risks.”

Harris, however, said the panel had taken the position that the jab should continue to be administered, while an investigation of cases of these thrombo-embolic events is ongoing.

Countries that have reportedly paused their inoculation campaigns include Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania Norway, Iceland and Thailand.

According to the WHO COVID-19 vaccine tracker, there are 81 vaccines in clinical development and more than 180 in the pre-clinical development phase.

To date, WHO has approved two vaccines for emergency use against COVID-19: the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – approved on Dec. 31, 2020 – and two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, on Feb. 15.

In addition, Harris said the Chinese Sinovac jab was currently in the last stage of clinical evaluation and might be approved for use by the end of the month.

“Certainly, we are looking at the Chinese vaccine and there is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to consider, and we are looking at a number of others,” she added.

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