United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said that the coronavirus vaccines developed by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca were safe, after several European nations suspended their use due to fears of blood clots.
“That vaccine is safe and works extremely well, and now, only six months later, it is being made in multiple places from India to the US, as well as Britain, and it is being used around the world,” Johnson wrote in an article published in The Times.
Johnson added that the vaccine was easier to distribute and store than other alternatives. “Under the terms of the deal struck between Oxford and the UK government it is being dispensed at cost,” he added. “You may wonder why we have done it that way, or why the taxpayer has already spent hundreds of millions of pounds, through Covax and other schemes, to put jabs in the arms of other populations.”
The British prime minister added that there was little point in achieving isolated national immunity as the entire world had to be protected. He said that the rest of the world also needed to be confident enough to allow trade, travel and operation of businesses to drive up employment and improve lives.
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On Monday, the World Health Organization again vouched for the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The global health body’s assurance came after France, Germany and Italy joined the list of countries that suspended its use.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said during a press briefing that no causal link had been established yet between blood clotting and the vaccine.
AstraZeneca also said earlier this month that a safety review of people inoculated with its coronavirus vaccine had shown no evidence of increased risk of blood clots.
However, some countries expressed doubts about the safety of the vaccine after several cases emerged of people developing blood clots or brain haemorrhages after inoculation.
Ireland and the Netherlands suspended the use of the vaccine on March 14. Bulgaria was also not using the vaccine. On March 11, Denmark, Norway and Iceland had temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine. Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg did not completely suspend the use of the vaccine but stopped using just one batch.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca said the safety of the vaccine was extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirmed that the shot had been generally well-tolerated.
In India, the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab is one of the two vaccines approved for emergency use. Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, is the other vaccine.
India is also reviewing all “serious” side effects following coronavirus vaccination but said that the panels set up to look into the adverse events were not focusing on any particular vaccine.