REUTERS – The World Health Organization's director-general said on Monday that systems meant to protect public health were working, as several countries suspended the use of the AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine to investigate possible side-effects.
This does not necessarily mean these events are linked to Covid-19 vaccination, but it's routine practice to investigate them, and it shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual media briefing.
A WHO advisory committee plans to meet on Tuesday to discuss the vaccine, which Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus said on Monday they were pausing after several countries reported serious conditions in people who had received the shot.
Denmark and Norway has stopped giving the shot last week after reporting isolated cases of blood clots, bleeding or a low platelet count. Iceland and Bulgaria followed suit and Ireland and the Netherlands announced suspensions on Sunday.
Even so, the top WHO scientist reiterated on Monday that there had been no documented deaths linked to Covid-19 vaccines.
We do not want people to panic, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the briefing, adding that no association had so far been found between the thromboembolic events reported in some countries and Covid-19 shots.
Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director general for access to medicines and health products, agreed. She noted that millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered in Europe, and yet there had been no increase in blood clot events.
“So far it doesn’t look like there are more cases than would be expected for the period in the general population,” she said.
The United Kingdom, where the AstraZeneca vaccine was developed in partnership with Oxford University, says it has no concerns, while the drug maker has said a review of safety data has shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.
The European Medicines Agency has said that as of March 10, a total of 30 cases of blood clotting had been reported among close to 5 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot in the European Economic Area, which links 30 European countries.