EU Presidency: AstraZeneca vaccine decisions ‘affect everyone’

Syringes filled with doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine lie on a table at a private medical practice in Germany. [EPA-EFE/Sean Gallup / POOL]

The Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union on Wednesday warned member states that individual decisions affected everyone regarding the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, involved in risks of blood clots, calling for the most coordinated position possible among the 27.

A statement issued after the virtual meeting of European health ministers, convened as an emergency meeting and chaired by the Portuguese minister for health, Marta Temido, said the European Commission and the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union called on all member states to seek a position as coordinated as possible in the EU.

Quoted in the note, Marta Temido stressed: “We must not forget that individual decisions affect everyone”.

The Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU today held an emergency meeting of European ministers, which took place after the public announcement of the conclusions of the Committee for Risk Assessment in Pharmacovigilance of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European agency disclosed a “possible link” between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and “sporadic cases” of blood clots but insisted on the benefits of the drug against the risks of side effects, given the severity of the pandemic.

The executive director of the EMA, Emer Cooke, attended this virtual meeting and assured the ministers that the European regulator would continue to monitor possible side effects of this and all Covid-19 vaccines, updating recommendations as necessary,” according to the statement.

The note also said, without specifying, that EU member states shared different interpretations on the report’s conclusions but sought to clarify with the EMA aspects related to the safety of Vaxzevria, the new name of AstraZeneca’s drug.

All agreed on the need for further pharmacovigilance studies for specific groups, the statement issued by the Portuguese presidency of the Council added.

It is also noted that, with vaccination plans in the member states at a crucial stage of implementation, the ministers committed to continuing the discussion of matters related to the whole European process and its future planning.

In this investigation, the EMA found that these very rare blood clots occurred mainly in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination. However, it did not draw any conclusions about specific risk factors.

A possible explanation could lie in the low immune response of these people and the fact that more women are being vaccinated in Europe.

There will be a further update of information on the vaccine, given the findings released later.

Figures released by the European Commission show that, as of this morning, 15.4% of European adults had received a first dose of the covid-19 vaccine, with 6.4% having been fully vaccinated.

In all, more than 108 million doses have been delivered to the EU, at an average rate of more than one million vaccinations occurring every day (given the more than 11 million doses were administered in the last week).

Currently, four vaccines are approved in the EU by the EMA: Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty), Moderna, Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca’s new vaccine name) and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson group, which will be in distribution in mid-April).

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