AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine benefits increase with age: EMA

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THE HAGUE: The European Union’s drug watchdog said on Friday (Apr 23) that a review of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine found its benefits increase with age and still outweigh the risks for adults despite links to blood clots.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) was presenting its findings after the European Commission asked it to look into concerns that prompted several countries to restrict its use to older people.

“It showed that the benefits of vaccination increase with increasing age and infection rates,” the Amsterdam-based EMA said in statement.

“The benefits of Vaxzevria outweigh its risks in adults of all age groups; however, very rare cases of blood clots with low blood platelets have occurred following vaccination,” it added, using the vaccine’s brand name.

READ: How worried should we be about blood clots linked to Astrazeneca, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines?

The rare clots happened in around one in 100,000 people who received the vaccine, it said.

“Vaxzevria is effective at preventing hospitalisations, intensive care unit admissions and deaths due to COVID-19. The most common side effects are usually mild or moderate and get better within a few days.”

Despite reports that clot cases were more prevalent among women, the EMA said that “there were insufficient data available from across the EU to provide further context on benefits and risks with regard to sex”.

BLOW TO CONFIDENCE

Public confidence in the AstraZeneca jab has taken a blow since the EMA said on Apr 7 that a very rare, but often fatal, form of blood clot affecting the brain should be listed as a side effect.

READ: WHO experts want more AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine blood clot data from outside Europe

Clots are also being listed as a side effect of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which uses the same adenovirus vector technology as AstraZeneca, the EMA said earlier this week.

Brussels asked the EMA earlier this month to carry out further investigations, and the watchdog said its announcement on Friday was to “provide an update on the analysis of data” on AstraZeneca.

The EMA said it was also sharing the latest opinion issued by its human medicines committee “aimed at supporting national decision-making on how to best use the vaccine in their territories”.

The regulator said on Tuesday that there had been 287 cases of the rare clots worldwide linked to AstraZeneca, 25 to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, eight to the Johnson & Johnson shot and five to the Moderna jab.

The EU is now increasingly relying for its roll-out on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which uses rival messenger RNA tech.

The European Commission is also looking to launch legal action against AstraZeneca for under-delivering COVID-19 vaccine doses to the EU, which hobbled its early roll-out.

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