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Govt on 10 countries halting use of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine

A volunteer receives a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech at the Sao Lucas Hospital, in Porto Alegre, southern Brazil on August 08, 2020. Photo: CNN. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Mar 17, 2021, India Today. The central government on Wednesday said it is aware of media reports expressing concerns related to the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in some European countries. The government said so far, there are “no signals of concerns” on the usage of the vaccine in India, India Today reported.

AstraZeneca is a drug manufacturer that collaborated with the Oxford University to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.

In India, the vaccine is branded as Covishield and is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. It is one of the two vaccine that have secured emergency use authorisation are part of the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination.

“There are reports on AstraZeneca’s vaccine relationship with thrombotic events (blood clotting) in people who received the vaccine and 10 countries have paused using AstraZeneca’s vaccine. The European Medical Agency says it is a precautionary measure and there is no data to suggest a causal relationship between the vaccine and thrombotic events reported,” said Dr VK Paul, Member Niti Aayog (health) and head of the government’s taskforce on Covid-19 vaccination.

Speaking about the precaution that the government is taking in this regard, Dr Paul said the expert panel that looks at adverse effects of vaccines is aware of the issue and is tracking the available information.

“I assure you that we have no signal of concern in this regard,” he said, addressing a press conference on the country’s Covid-19 situation.

Ten countries, mostly in Europe, have temporarily halted use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine following reports of dangerous blood clots in a few recipients.

The European Medicines Agency has however said there is “no indication” that the vaccine shot was responsible for the blood clots.

Sweden was the latest to join a swelling group of European Union nations choosing caution over speed, even as the head of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke said the agency is “firmly convinced” that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the risks.

In addition to the EMA, AstraZeneca and the WHO have said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of blood clots.

There have been 37 reports of blood clots among the more than 17 million people who have received the vaccine across the EU and Britain, AstraZeneca said.

The countries that have halted use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine include Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, among others.

The World Health Organisation has also clarified that the temporary halt that some countries have imposed is on some batches of vaccines manufactured in Europe. So far, no such measure has been taken on AstraZeneca’s vaccines manufactured in India and South Korea.

Meanwhile, the Union health Ministry on Wednesday also expressed concerns about the vaccine wastage in some states. Vaccine wastage refers to the number/percentage of vaccines that were lost, damaged, discarded or destroyed.

“India’s overall percentage of Covid-19 vaccine wastage is 6.5 per cent. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh recorded 17.6 per cent and 11.6 per cent of vaccine wastage, respectively. We have told the states that vaccine wastage needs to be drastically reduced,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

Urging states to minimise vaccine wastage, Dr VK Paul said they are a “precious commodity”.

(With inputs from agencies)

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