India is looking at all “serious” side effects following coronavirus vaccination, NDTV reported on Saturday, quoting a member of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Task Force. The move came after several European countries temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines amid concerns of patients developing blood clots after inoculation.
Dr NK Arora, a member of National Task Force for coronavirus, said that the Adverse Event Following Immunisation, or AEFI, will be monitored for both Covishield and Covaxin.
Covishield is developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and produced by Pune-based Serum Institute of India. Bharat Biotech has developed Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology.
Speaking about the review, Arora said that the panels set up to look into the adverse events were not focusing on any particular vaccines. “When the analysis is available, it will be reported, according to the vaccine, if there is any cause for concern,” he said.
Arora said that there are two types of AEFIs – mild and serious. “Serious post-vaccination side effects include two categories – hospitalisation and deaths,” he said. “We are looking at all serious adverse events.”
Dr Rajinder K Dhamija, a member of an AEFI committee, told NDTV that strict safety monitoring protocols are in place for India’s immunisation drive and so far no major side effects have been recorded.
AstraZeneca vaccine suspension
On Thursday, countries such as Denmark, Norway and Iceland temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Other such as Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg, did not completely suspend the use of the vaccine but stopped using just one batch sent to 17 European countries, containing one million (10 lakh) shots.
Austria took the decision on Monday after a 49-year-old nurse, who had received the jab from the batch concerned, died of “severe blood coagulation problems”. Another person who received a shot from the same vaccine batch was also hospitalised because of a blood clot.
The European Medicines Agency, or EMA, said that as of March 9, 22 cases of blood clots have been reported from among the 3 million, or 30 lakh, vaccinated in the European Economic Area, comprising the European Union and three countries of the European Free Trade Association excluding Switzerland.
The World Health Organization on Friday said that countries should not stop using AstraZeneca’s vaccine as there was no indication that it causes blood clots.
“AstraZeneca is an excellent vaccine, as are the other vaccines that are being used,” WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said. “We’ve reviewed the data on deaths. There has been no death, to date, proven to have been caused by vaccination.”
AstraZeneca also said the recorded number of blood clots in vaccinated people was “significantly lower” than what was expected among the general population. “The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well-tolerated,” a spokesperson for the company said.
Britain too spoke in favour of the vaccine, calling it “both safe and effective”.