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EU medicines regulator finds possible link between AstraZeneca Covid vaccine and blood clots

Syringes are filled with Astrazeneca’s vaccine at the pharmacy.

Christopher Neundorf | picture alliance | Getty Images

LONDON — Europe’s medicines regulator on Wednesday announced a possible link between the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and rare blood clotting issues in adults who received the shot.

It comes after a review of all currently available evidence into extremely rare cases of unusual blood clots in some vaccinated people.

Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, said in a televised press conference that the regulator’s safety committee “has confirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 overall outweigh the risks of side effects.”

The EMA’s safety committee “after a very in-depth analysis has concluded that the reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” Cooke said.

“A plausible explanation for these rare side events is an immune response to the vaccine similar to one seen in patients treated with heparin,” she said, noting that it’s called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.

Shares of AstraZeneca fell by about 0.8% during afternoon deals in London.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca shot has been dogged by safety concerns in recent weeks, with several European countries briefly suspending their use of the vaccine last month.

The EMA said on March 31 that it had found the shot to be safe and effective, but added it could not rule out the possibility of a causal link between the vaccine and clotting events so would continue to investigate.

The World Health Organization, the U.K.’s medicines regulator and the International Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis have all said that the benefits of administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot far outweigh the risks.

AstraZeneca has previously said its studies have found no higher risk of blood clots as a result of its vaccine.

Most countries have since resumed use of the shot but many have suspended inoculations across certain age groups.

A senior official at Europe’s medicines regulator reportedly said Tuesday that there is a clear “association” between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and very rare blood clots in the brain, though the direct cause was not yet known.

In an interview with Italian newspaper Il Messaggero published Tuesday, Marco Cavaleri, chair of the EMA’s vaccine evaluation team, said: “In my opinion we can now say it, it is clear that there is an association with the vaccine. However, we still do not know what causes this reaction.”

The EMA subsequently denied it had established any link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot and rare blood clots in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

UK vaccine trial in children paused

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