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COVID-19: Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is ‘excellent’ and ‘no reason not to use it’, says WHO

The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 jab is an “excellent vaccine” and there is “no reason not to use it”, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert has said.

It is being checked by scientists after some countries paused distribution of it over a small number of reports of blood clots.

However, spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a Geneva briefing “no causal relationship” had been established between the shot and the health problems reported, calling the pause in use “a precautionary measure”.

“It’s very important to understand that, yes, we should continue to be using the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she said.

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“All that we’re looking at is what we always look at: any safety signal must be investigated.

“It is very important we are hearing safety signals, because if we were not hearing about safety signals, that would suggest there is not enough review and vigilance,” she said.

Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria and now Thailand have said they were temporarily halting all Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccinations to investigate reports of blood clots among people who have had the jab.

Italy also followed Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Lithuania in banning jabs from one particular batch of one million Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, which was sent to 17 countries, after reports of a death.

However, officials in Germany and France have said the vaccine was safe and that it will continue to be used.

AstraZeneca – which produced the vaccine with Oxford University – has insisted there is no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis.

The drugs firm said in a statement that the occurrence is in actual fact “significantly lower” in those who have been vaccinated than what would be expected among the general population.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine causes blood clot problems, and that people should still get their coronavirus jab when invited to do so.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also backed the jab’s safety and said there have been only 30 reports of blood clots among close to five million people given the vaccine across Europe.

It said in a statement: “The vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.”

Earlier this week, the EMA reported that one person in Austria was diagnosed with blood clots and died 10 days after vaccination, but stressed there is “currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions”.

Another person was admitted to hospital with pulmonary embolism (blockage in arteries in the lungs) after being vaccinated.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said: “Vaccine safety is critically important.

“The public should have confidence that both vaccines used in the UK vaccination programme are safe and highly effective at preventing severe disease, including the prevention of blood clots caused by COVID.”

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