EU criticised over restriction of AstraZeneca vaccine – ‘Led to more deaths’

AstraZeneca: Van-Tam discusses vaccine 'course correction'

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Fears over a rare blood clot sparked serious concern in governments across Europe, despite the AstraZeneca vaccine receiving the green light from regulators. Speaking on BBC Newsnight, Professor Jeremy Brown from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) criticised the EU’s restriction of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The BBC show host Emily Maitlis asked Professor Brown about Norway, Denmark and Iceland’s decision to suspend the AstraZeneca jab almost a month ago, asking whether they were too hasty in their decision making.

She said: “Now at the time it seemed that the European Commission countries were dismissed for that suspension.

“Does it seem to you now that we were too hasty to judge and maybe that transparency earlier on would have been helpful here?”

Professor Brown responded: “What we did not like about their suspension was their rapid suspension in an age group where the risk-benefit would clearly benefit in carrying on with the vaccination.

“Many of the countries that you’ve mentioned there, suspended the vaccine in age groups where the instance of disease is going up and the death rate is now like 1 in a thousand, 1 in a hundred – something approaching that order of magnitude.

“By suspending the use of the vaccination, they have probably led to more deaths and morbidity than illness than they would have done if they carried on with the vaccine programme.

“That’s the issue of their rapid suspension in age groups where the disease itself is likely to cause very severe infections.”

The news comes as the UK has made the decision to offer an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 30.

Ms Maitlis inquired on the programme, whether the blood clots developed after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine affected women more than men, to which Professor Brown responded that it was hard to know.

He said “More women have been vaccinated because a high proportion of healthcare workers and social care workers are female.”

Health experts still maintain that people should be vaccinated regardless of concerns, as the benefits outweigh the risks.

On the same programme, Dr Margaret Harris from the WHO noted that despite the EU’s reluctance to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, they are still reluctant to give up surplus doses.

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She said: “A little under two weeks ago my director general made an appeal to countries with surpluses to donate a million of the vaccines that we can use in COVAX, that’s AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech.

“To date I have not heard of any of those vaccines arriving yet.

“We haven’t got anything extra from the agreements that we had with the suppliers and unfortunately the supplies we thought we would have, are delayed because India particularly, is dealing with a massive, massive outbreak and they’re using what they’ve got.”

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