What is going on with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe? – BBC News

you'd be forgiven for asking what is going on with the astrazeneca vaccine in europe in january there were bitter words about delays in its supply there was an insistence that the eu would act as one on vaccines and president macron questioned how effective it is for older people while the european regulator cleared it for use then in february it became clear many astrazeneca doses in the eu were yet to be used and now in march some eu countries including france and germany have acted on their own and suspended its use without waiting for the european regulator that's prompted this senior global health researcher to say the decisions by france germany and other countries look baffling now they wouldn't use that word but this is what's happening and here are the reasons why some are baffled last week norway iceland denmark lithuania latvia and estonia suspended the use of astrazeneca's vaccine a small number of people out of several million had experienced blood clots the decision was taken despite the who and the european medicines agency both saying there's no evidence of a link between the vaccine and blood clots also last week italy suspended the use of one batch of astrazeneca because a soldier had a cardiac arrest now it's very rare for a particular batch of a vaccine to be a particular problem there was no evidence of a link between the cardiac arrest and the vaccine and astrazeneca has run its own tests and found no issues now france italy germany spain ireland and the netherlands have fully suspended this vaccine's use here's the german health minister the german government is suspending vaccination with astrazeneca as a preventative measure this is due to new cases of cerebral vein thrombosis reported in connection with the vaccine now these countries are pointing to norway where four people three of whom are under 50 are being treated in hospital the medical director of the norwegian medicines agency says they have very unusual symptoms bleeding blood clots and a low count of blood platelets they are quite sick we take this very seriously as of course does everyone but then we have this from astrazeneca's chief medical officer who says around 17 million people in the eu and the uk have now received our vaccine and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population that's right the rate of blood clots is lower than we'd expect anyway which is why some argue these suspensions are the wrong approach we have people dying across europe and cases going up in many european states a faltering vaccination program with high levels of vaccine hesitancy already and they are not looking at the downsides of the suspension once this suspension has happened rebuilding public trust may be impossible now those taking the decision admit they are being cautious here's ireland's deputy chief medical officer who says it may be nothing we may be overreacting and i sincerely hope that in a week's time we're accused of being over cautious well we don't need to wait a week for that it's happening already and the reason for those accusations of excess caution is that these decisions aren't being taken in a vacuum as one of germany's leading doctors puts it the astrazeneca vaccine has a pr problem not so much a scientific problem and all of these national regulators in the eu know very well that this vaccine's reputation is an issue look at this headline from zib 2 news in austria problem stuff equals problem med in other words this vaccine is a problem and these are pictures from belgium's largest vaccination center in february far from busy the guardian reported that by the end of last month four out of five astrazeneca jabs delivered to the eu had not been used now there are a range of factors here but regulators know some people are reticent to take the astrazeneca vaccine and they know these suspensions risk increasing that reticence they also know there is a cost if these suspensions slow the vaccine roll out as natasha loader from the economist tweets side effects of the suspension of the astrazeneca vaccine include severe to moderate 19 long-term organ damage and death the head of the group which made this vaccine makes a similar point well i think we have to balance that against the huge risks that there are i've copied and if we have no vaccination and we come out of lockdown in this country we will expect tens of thousands of more deaths to occur during this year and while eu member states shift their position on this vaccine the uk has administered 11 million doses and the rollout goes on we continue to be very confident about the program and it's it's great to see it being rolled out of such such speed across the across the uk now the prime minister hasn't criticized what's being done elsewhere but not everyone's holding back the former uk government advisor here says this is painful to watch and a total failure of proportionate regulation the point being that you cannot apply this level of scientific caution when your vaccine has a reputation issue despite it being found to be safe and effective and there's a pandemic that urgently needs to be tamed there's also criticism of the fundamental calculation here some argue that while these symptoms could be caused by the vaccine chance is a more likely explanation here's the statistician sir david spiegelholzer writing in the guardian saying it's a common human tendency to attribute a causal effect between different events even when there isn't one present we watch the car and the next day a bird relieves itself all over the bonnet right but the people across europe taking these decisions are not me or you looking at a dirty car bonnet and drawing the wrong conclusion these are leading medical regulators and they say their decision is about confidence building actually guys look at this in a way this should increase your confidence in vaccination programs what you want is you want us to deliver safe programs we are taking every measure to make sure that that is what we're doing perhaps that will work perhaps it is the best course of action there is though a risk if building confidence is the goal bringing in a raft of suspensions based on far from conclusive data may be to use emmanuel macron's infamous phrase quasi-ineffective at doing that it's not hard to imagine confidence falling because of all these suspensions and if that happens that will impact the speed of the vaccine rollout which in turn will bring a human cost from the virus these are the calculations each country must make

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