AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine controversy explained — from suspension in Europe to India’s stance

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AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine controversy explained — from suspension in Europe to India’s stance
The Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine called Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), is currently being used in the country's vaccination driveBCCL
  • The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been banned in at least a dozen European countries due to blood clots being a possible side effect.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) assert that there is no link between the doses and the blood clots.
  • India — where the AstraZeneca vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and sold as Covishield — is also reportedly conducting its own in-depth review.
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is being taken out of circulation by at least a dozen European countries. Their concern is that the most-sold vaccine globally may be causing blood clots in some patients.

India is looking into the matter as well but has no immediate plans to ban the vaccine since no incidents of blood clotting have been reported locally yet.

Moreover, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the clotting of blood has only been reported in people who received the vaccine from two batches of doses produced in Europe, not India.

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AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine controversy explained — from suspension in Europe to India’s stance
Orders of vaccine doses placed globallyBI India

What is the controversy?
Denmark was the first country to suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of patients with blood clotting increase. Ireland was next, followed by Norway where three health workers who had recently received the vaccine were admitted to the hospital for bleeding, blood clots and low platelet count.

So far, there have been 30 reports of blood clots across five million doses of the vaccine.

What do the experts say?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) assert that there is no link between the two. However, they are still reviewing the data as it comes in to verify whether or not blood clotting is a result of the vaccine.
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“This does not necessarily mean that these events are linked to vaccination. But, it’s routine practice to investigate them — it shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place,” said the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press briefing on March 15.

Where does India stand?
India, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), is also conducting its own in-depth review to look into the possibility of blood clots.

The Indian version of the vaccine, called Covishield, has not just been used locally but been sent to other countries as well. The government has either gifted or exported millions of doses of SII’s vaccine to around 70 countries since January.
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“We are looking at all the adverse events, particularly serious adverse events like deaths and hospitalisation. We will come back if we find anything of concern,” NK Arora, a member of India’s national task force on COVID-19, told AFP.

India has doled at least 32 million shots as of 8:00am on March 16. Most of these doses — the other candidate being Biotech’s Covaxin — consist of AstraZeneca doses produced at SII, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines.

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