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UK releases new data about AstraZeneca-linked blood clots as EMA continues to support use of vaccine

Several European countries have paused the use of the jab.

A health worker prepares a dose of the Astrazeneca vaccine
A health worker prepares a dose of the Astrazeneca vaccine
Image: Alvaro Barrientos/PA

THE UK’S MEDICAL regulator has said that seven people out of 30 people who suffered blood clots after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have died.

Details of the deaths come as several European countries have paused the use of the jab over a potential link to blood clots.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said in a statement that “out of the 30 reports up to and including 24 March, sadly seven have died”.

The 30 reports of thrombosis, submitted by doctors or members of the public via a government website, came after 18.1 million doses of the vaccine had been administered to people in the country.

Most of the cases (22) were cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a rare condition in which a blood clot forms in the brain.

Eight other cases saw people suffer thrombosis and low levels of blood platelets, which help blood clot. 

It follows data from the EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which said on Thursday that there had been 62 cases worldwide of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis associated with the vaccine.

The EMA regards the vaccine – which has been given to millions of people – as safe and effective, and is expected to announce updated advice about the jab next Wednesday.

It believes the vaccine is safe and that experts have found no specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history.

A small number of people who have received the vaccine in Ireland so far have reported blood clotting.

However, Ireland’s medicines watchdog has said that none of the reports notified described the type of disorder associated with concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine.

AstraZeneca said in mid-March that there was “no evidence” of higher risk of blood clots from its vaccine.

Both the EMA and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommended that the use of the vaccine in Ireland should continue after a conclusion by the former that the vaccine is “safe and effective” following fears last month.

But some countries, including Denmark and Norway, have paused vaccinations with the jab.

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Many have resumed the vaccine’s use only for older people, aged 55 and above, because the blood clots are believed to affect younger people.

These include France, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, as well as Canada.

Other countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, resumed full rollout after being reassured by the EMA.

A recent study conducted by health authorities in England has shown protection of between 60 percent and 73 percent against symptoms in people over 70 years old, with a single dose.

Last month, AstraZeneca announced a US trial showed 79 percent effectiveness but then revised this to 76 percent after the US authorities raised concerns that some results were outdated.

© AFP 2021 with additional reporting by Stephen McDermott.

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