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Halting jab drive will impede our path to normalcy

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Photo: Reuters

The European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, has said it remains 'firmly convinced' that benefits of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks. This follows suspension of the shots by several EU nations amid reports of blood clots. Mint explains:

The European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, has said it remains “firmly convinced" that benefits of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks. This follows suspension of the shots by several EU nations amid reports of blood clots. Mint explains:

What is happening with Oxford vaccine?

More than a dozen European nations, including Italy, France, and Germany, have temporarily halted the use of the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine over safety concerns. Denmark and Norway last week reported unusual side-effects such as bleeding, blood clots, and low platelet counts in some people who had received the shots. Rarer still are the incidents of brain clots that have led to the death of two health workers in Norway, who were previously described as fit. Such events have also been reported in Spain, Sweden, and Austria, prompting the dramatic steps and slowing down the continent’s immunization efforts.

Are the shots and the clots linked?

There is no evidence, so far. But, the incidents still need to be scientifically probed to establish or refute any causal link. The WHO is reviewing the evidence, while an expert panel of the EMA that is investigating the potential link between the AZ vaccine and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, the rare brain clot, is likely to release its conclusions on Thursday. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, has stressed that of the 300 million vaccine doses administered globally, there is no documented death that has been traced to a covid vaccine. The two organizations have urged nations to continue using the jab.

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How many blood-clot incidents have emerged?

There are fewer than 40 incidents so far among the 17 million Europeans who have been given at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Experts say that blood clots inside veins are relatively common, particularly in older people. EMA has said that blood-clot cases among those vaccinated are no more than among those that have not been vaccinated.

How significant is the issue for India?

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is known as Covishield in India and is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. This is India’s mainstay in its battle against covid, which is seeing a dangerous resurgence in many states, triggering concerns about fresh curbs. If confidence in Covishield’s safety dwindles, or if there is indisputable evidence that it causes some of the serious side-effects that the European nations suspect, our immunization drive could suffer a debilitating setback, delaying exit from the pandemic.

What is the way forward for nations?

The virus continues to sicken and kill people by the thousands every day. The pandemic is killing more people than the side-effects of vaccines are suspected to have so far. Vaccines are the only way for humanity to wipe out this scourge. Governments’ knee-jerk reactions are understandable, as the handling of covid has had serious political fallout. But they must stay the course and use effective communication. They must remain vigilant of serious side-effects in large number of recipients.

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