WHO says AstraZeneca risk-benefits still largely positive

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SENFTENBERG, GERMANY - MARCH 03: A nurse holds a vile of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 during the inoculation of patients at a private medical practice as part of a pilot project in the state of Brandenburg during the coronavirus pandemic on March 03, 2021 in Senftenberg, Germany. Several German states are allowing vaccinations against COVID-19 to begin in a limited number of private medical practices with the aim of expanding venues that offer the vaccines beyond the current mass vaccination centers. While Germany's vaccination rollout has been hampered by less than anticipated shipments of vaccine, the volume of shipments has begun increasing, leading to higher weekly numbers of vaccinations. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A nurse holds a vile of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The risk-benefit balance for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is “still largely positive”, the World Health Organization said Tuesday after fresh claims about links to blood clots.

A top official from the European Medicines Agency — the EU’s drug regulator — claimed there was a clear connection between the jab and clots, though the EMA itself said it was still reviewing data and no conclusions had yet been reached.

“There is no link for the moment between the vaccine and thrombotic events with thrombocytopenia,” Rogerio Pinto de Sa Gaspar, the WHO’s director for regulation and pre-qualification, told a press conference.

“The appraisal we have for the moment — and this is under consideration by the experts — is that the benefit-risk assessment for the vaccine is still largely positive.

“For the time being, there is no evidence that the benefit-risk assessment for the vaccine needs to be changed.”

He said the WHO expects to reach a fresh assessment on Wednesday or Thursday but does not believe there will be a reason to change its advice that the benefits outweigh any risks.

In March, more than a dozen countries, including Germany, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most EU nations restarted on March 19 — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks of not inoculating people against COVID-19. At the time, the EMA recommended the vaccine’s leaflet be updated with information about the rare clots.

The AstraZeneca jabs produced in South Korea and India, plus the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and that of Johnson and Johnson, are the only ones to have received WHO authorization so far in the COVID-19 pandemic.
(With input from agencies)

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