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EMA: 'no evidence' to restrict AstraZeneca jab

April 1, 2021

The European Medicines Agency has repeatedly come out in support of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But some countries, including Germany, have imposed restrictions on the shot.

A bottle of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with a syringe in the foreground
The AstraZeneca vaccine has come under pressure after reports of blood clots Image: Alexandre Marchi/Photopqr/L'Est Républicain/picture alliance

A day after Germany stopped giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 60, the EU's European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was "no evidence" to support such a decision.

EMA chief Emer Cooke said her Amsterdam-based agency would continue to examine the reports of rare blood clots in people who got the coronavirus shot. EMA's stance is that a causal link with the vaccine was "not proven, but is possible and further analysis is continuing."

However, "according to the current scientific knowledge, there is no evidence that would support restricting the use of this vaccine in any population," Cooke told reporters on Wednesday.

Fear of blood clots

Several European countries have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in certain population over potential risks. Based on EMA's data, there have been 4.8 cases of rare blood clots per million doses administered, said Cooke. Cooke also said there were 0.2 cases per million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses given, and zero cases for Moderna vaccines, but that was likely due to the lower use of the Moderna vaccine in Europe.

The EMA said it found 62 cases of rare blood clots worldwide after the vaccine was administered, including 14 deaths, before March 22.

German regulators noted 31 reports of such blood clots and nine deaths leading up to March 29, roughly doubling the number reported in the country by March 22. Before the latest restriction on people under 60,  Germany temporarily halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine entirely in March.

Germany's Mertens 'not at all happy'

In an interview with DW, Thomas Mertens, the chairman of Germany's vaccine committee (STIKO), said there was no choice but to limit who could get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Virologist Thomas Mertens on AstraZeneca crisis in Germany

"We have our own very solid data on this point," said Mertens. "I'm not at all happy about this decision. You can believe me, but we couldn't act in a different way in the moment."

He noted that available vaccines were simply being shifted from one age group to another, and expressed hope that "we will not have [a] major delay in our overall vaccination campaign."

kbd/dj (AP, Reuters)

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