AstraZeneca has announced that it is withdrawing its vaccine against the coronavirus globally due to a “surplus of available updated vaccines”, reported The Telegraph on Tuesday.

The announcement came three months after the pharmaceutical company said in court documents that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could cause a rare but serious side effect.

The company admitted in court that the vaccine could lead to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome – also known by its acronym TTS – which is characterised by blood clotting and low levels of platelets.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is sold in India as Covishield and is produced at Pune’s Serum Institute of India. Covishield is the most widely used Covid-19 vaccine in India, and about 175 crore doses of it have been administered in the country, according to Business Standard.

The Serum Institute of India has not undertaken fresh manufacturing of Covishield for nearly two years, a spokesperson told Scroll. The company, however, has not announced any plans to discontinue the production.

In a statement to Scroll on Tuesday, a Serum Institute of India spokesperson said: “With India achieving high vaccination rates in 2021 and 2022, coupled with the emergence of new mutant variant strains, the demand for previous vaccines diminished significantly. Consequently, since December 2021, we have stopped the manufacturing and supply of additional doses of Covishield.”

AstraZeneca had applied to voluntarily withdraw its vaccine’s market authorisation in the European Union on March 5. It came into effect on Tuesday, according to The Telegraph.

The company will make similar applications in the United Kingdom and in other countries that cleared the vaccine.

AstraZeneca said the vaccine was no longer being manufactured or supplied, as it has been superseded by newer vaccines designed to fight more recent strains of the virus.

The company said it was “incredibly proud” of the role that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine played in ending the Covid-19 pandemic.

“According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over three billion doses were supplied globally,” it said. “Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic.”

The World Health Organization declared on May 5, 2023, that the Covid-19 pandemic was no longer a public health emergency of international concern. This meant countries could transition from emergency mode to managing the virus alongside other infectious diseases.

Court case against AstraZeneca

In February, AstraZeneca admitted in court documents that the vaccine could lead to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, although the causal mechanism was not known. However, it emphasised that the benefits of inoculation outweigh any risks of “extremely rare potential side effects”.

The company has been sued in the United Kingdom by over 50 people who allegedly suffered side effects or relatives of those who died because of them.

In May 2021, the United Kingdom government, as a precaution, had advised against the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for those below the age of 39 if an alternative was available.

Also read: