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Europe endorses AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine’s safety amid blood clot concerns

March 18, 2021 Eric Sagonowsky

After a tough few days for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the European Medicines Agency offered fresh backing for the shot’s safety on Thursday.

The regulator reached a “clear scientific conclusion” that the AZ shot is “safe and effective,” EMA executive director Emer Cooke said during a briefing. The protection the shot offers against COVID-19 “outweighs possible risks,” he said.

With thousands dying from COVID-19 in Europe, it’s critical to continue vaccinations, Cooke added.

After reports of blood clots following vaccinations in recent days, several countries halted their immunization programs pending further review. The EMA “cannot rule out definitively” a link, so Cooke said the agency is raising awareness of possible risks from the shot. 

With more awareness, people can “spot and mitigate” any possible side effects. Further, the agency is launching “targeted observational studies” to learn more about the shot’s safety.

About 7 million people in Europe and 11 million people in the U.K. have already received the vaccine, Cooke noted. 

RELATED: 7 European countries clamp down on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as safety worries threaten rollout 

EMA’s endorsement of the vaccine came after similar proclamations from authorities at the World Health Organization and the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. 

Earlier this week, numerous countries in Europe and beyond stopped using the vaccine amid a series of reports of blood clots, and some deaths, following vaccination. 

AstraZeneca has stood by the vaccine, saying patient safety is the company’s “highest priority.” 

RELATED: AstraZeneca’s touting COVID vaccine safety record, but countries are still dropping out—and supply problems persist 

“Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca,” a spokeswoman said. “The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in Phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well tolerated.” 

Aside from the safety worries, the company is also hitting supply hurdles. In recent days, the company cut its European first-half supply target to 100 million doses—down from 300 million earlier. With that supply cut, Europe is now leaning more on the Pfizer/BioNTech shot. 

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