AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine’s future uncertain after numerous reported deaths and EU suspension

On Tuesday, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine distribution was put on pause by Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain after numerous reported deaths by people who received the vaccine. Now, the rest of the European Union is following suit

The company says the deaths and other problems may be unrelated to the vaccine itself, and the World Health Organization has said the vaccine is safe but it was investigating all complications developed by people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This past weekend, AstraZeneca announced that it was reviewing the data on the 17 million people who received doses and found that 37 cases of people developed blood clots. They said that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh any downfalls, and that possible side effects will occur with any vaccine.

AstraZeneca vaccine is one of four vaccines authorized for use, but these escalating concerns, and reports of deaths, have led to the suspension “as a precautionary measure,” said Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, in a statement. 

AstraZeneca said that their findings show “no evidence of an increased risk for any group or gender.” Some experts, including those at the European Medicines Agency, disagreed with AstraZeneca’s public reports, saying that rare cases of blood clots, or cerebral vein thrombosis, are higher in younger people, mostly women, but will be working with AstraZeneca on how to proceed.

The EMA will convene this week and hold another meeting on Thursday to decide on necessary actions and announcements. 

WHO chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, in a statement on Monday, called on people not to panic and that proper adjustments to the vaccine will be made. AstraZeneca said there is no evidence that the vaccine carries an increased risk of blood clots, that there is no official link.

Overall, there are mixed reports, some trying to downplay complications to calm panic, others trying to put a harsh stop to all production and trust in AstraZeneca. Later this week, an announcement will be made about the future of AstraZeneca’s production and distribution.

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