A photo illustration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham on Feb. 4, 2021 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood | Getty images
Medical experts in the United States are trying to allay fears that Covid-19 vaccines may be unsafe after several European countries stop the AstraZeneca shot following reports of blood clots in some recipients.
On Tuesday, Sweden, Latvia and Lithuania became the latest countries to join a growing list of countries suspending the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot due to concerns about blood clots. Germany, France, Italy and Spain all said on Monday they would also stop administering the shot.
The European Medicines Agency, which is evaluating the safety of medicines for the EU, convened a meeting on Thursday to review the findings. So far, it is claimed that the benefits of the injection in preventing hospitalization and deaths still “outweigh the risks of side effects”. The World Health Organization agreed, urging countries on Wednesday to continue to use AstraZeneca’s shots.
Without the results of the upcoming meeting of the European Medicines Agency, it’s hard to say whether the vaccines cause the reported blood clots, medical experts in the US told The Washington City Times, but the pharmaceutical giant already has a PR mess on its hands. Some doctors in the US are concerned that European countries are reacting too early to political pressure and security fears, and it will take extensive efforts to restore confidence in the vaccine if it is allowed online again.
“There is a weakness to this vaccine now,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an epidemiologist and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, at The Washington City Times in a telephone interview.
“I think if the vaccine is approved – not guilty – there will be a substantial PR effort in Europe and around the world to restore confidence in this vaccine,” he said.
No red flags in the US.
While the AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved for use in the US, White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers Wednesday that there will likely be enough safety and efficacy data to authorize the April doses.
When asked whether AstraZeneca’s suspension in European countries could cause fear among Americans using other vaccines, Fauci reiterated that the shots undergo rigorous clinical trials and are reviewed by an independent security board before being widely distributed.
“The whole process is both transparent and independent, and we explain that to people and take the time to dispel their hesitations without being confrontational,” Fauci told lawmakers in a hearing with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
This isn’t the first time Fauci has emphasized the safety of current vaccines amid AstraZeneca’s suspension. The infectious disease expert told MSNBC in an interview Tuesday that scientists in the US are carefully evaluating for side effects in vaccine recipients, even after they have been authorized and deployed.
For example, medical experts were concerned about reports of serious allergic reactions – or anaphylaxis – in people vaccinated with the Pfizer and Moderna shot. However, those cases appear to be rare, he said, even if the nation handed out at least one shot to 73 million adult Americans – more than 28% of the population.
“So far, and you have to keep monitoring these things very closely, there are no safety signs that turn out to be red flags,” Fauci said of the vaccines currently being deployed in the US.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Reuters in an interview published Monday that he was “quite reassured” by statements from European regulators that the problems could arise by chance.
“I was a little surprised that so many countries decided to stop receiving the vaccine, especially at a time when the disease itself is so incredibly threatening in most of those countries,” Collins later told CNN on Wednesday, adding that he has no access to the “primary data that may have alarmed them”.
Need more data
Regardless of whether people have been vaccinated or not. The problem scientists are now trying to determine is whether the vaccines were the culprit, Schaffner said.
“We knew in the beginning when we started vaccinating, given that we are targeting older adults, there are medical events happening in that population every day, even without vaccines,” Schaffner told The Washington City Times.
“It is possible that if you get vaccinated on Monday, there may be certain medical events on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” he said. “The question is, did the vaccine accelerate, precipitate or cause these events?”
AstraZeneca, for its part, said in a response on Sunday that of the more than 17 million people in the EU and the UK who have received a dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, fewer than 40 cases of blood clots have since been reported. last week.
The pharmaceutical giant said 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 cases of pulmonary embolism had been reported in the EU and UK among the vaccinees. Those numbers suggest that the side effects are occurring at a slower rate than what would be expected in the general population, not higher.
“I don’t think this is real, but I am very concerned because this is the vaccine we all rely on worldwide,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, at The Washington City Times. in a telephone interview, adding that the recording costs less than that of its competitors. Del Rio noted that without the data, however, it is difficult to determine whether the suspensions are appropriate.
“This requires major harm reduction,” said del Rio.
Politics could be the problem
There are some concerns that the problem with AstraZeneca’s vaccine may be more political. It also comes at a dangerous time: some European countries are fighting a new wave of new Covid-19 infections, even when vaccines are deployed.
So far, the EU’s vaccine roll-out has been slow compared to other countries such as the US and UK.
“It is a major concern that Europe is simply not getting so many people vaccinated,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a former Covid adviser to President Joe Biden, told The Washington City Times on Tuesday. “It’s another reason why we should be concerned about Covid’s situation in other countries, not just the United States.
The suspensions follow a public dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca in January, when the pharmaceutical company said it had been forced to reduce initial doses to the block. Several European countries also initially refused to recommend the shot to over-65s because there was insufficient evidence to show it was effective before the decision was reversed.
“It may be that … the governments are trying to respond to people’s concerns about the vaccine and not necessarily the data,” said Emanuel, a bioethicist and oncologist who serves as vice-provost for global initiatives at the University of London. Pennsylvania.
“Actions don’t necessarily track the data. They track more emotional responses to things like this,” he said.
– CNBCs Sam Meredith Holly Ellyatt and Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.