The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Thursday declared the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective for use against the virus.
This followed an investigation into reports of blood clots and possible deaths from the usage of the vaccines, prompting more than a dozen nations to suspend its use, the BBC reported.
The agency’s safety committee said the vaccine is safe but it would continue to study possible links between very rare blood clots and the vaccine.
“We still cannot rule out definitively a link between these cases and the vaccine,” Emer Cooke, the agency’s Executive Director said at a press conference.
Ms Cooke added that the regulator would raise awareness of the possible risks.
About two months ago, South Africa rejected about 1.5 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical-trial participants from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious virus variant that was first seen in the country.
Several countries including Germany, France, Spain, Australia, Italy, and Sweden recently paused their rollouts of the vaccine citing blood clotting difficulties and a suspected death arising from the usage of the vaccine.
Health authorities in these countries said their decision to restart the use of the AstraZeneca shot rests with the EMA’s conclusion.
Earlier this week, EMA reiterated that there was “no indication” that AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine causes blood clots and said it remained “firmly convinced” that the benefits of the shot in preventing coronavirus disease outweighed the risks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also backed the vaccine and urged countries to keep their inoculation campaigns going, pending its full review.
AstraZeneca said on Sunday a review of safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the UK and the European Union had shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.
“These figures were much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines,” It said.
Vaccines roll out
Having received 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines, the Nigerian government on Monday assured its citizens of the safety of the vaccines.
“The Nigerian authorities have tested and authorized the use of the vaccines because it is safe and efficacious,” the chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF), Boss Mustapha, said at its briefing.
Nigeria commenced vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccines on March 5 with Cyprian Ngong, a medical doctor, becoming the first person to receive the jab in Nigeria. The rollout started with healthcare workers who are often at the risk of exposure to infections being the first responders to patients.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo also received jabs of the vaccines one day after.
The presidency later released a statement saying Mr Buhari felt no major side effect from the vaccine while urging Nigerians to allow themselves to be vaccinated. Over 8,000 Nigerians have since been vaccinated.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is important especially to the COVAX arrangement, a WHO programme that promises access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population.
Because it is relatively cheap, easy to make, and store, the AstraZeneca vaccine is regarded as the most suitable for developing countries like Nigeria.
About 38 African countries have received more than 25 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility and 30 have started vaccination campaigns, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said on Thursday.
Ms Moeti also said nearly seven million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the Africa region.
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