Matt Hancock assures AstraZeneca vaccine jab is safe
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The Health Secretary hit out at European states for suspending the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is conducting a full scientific review, but has said it currently “remains convinced” that the “benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risk”. The regulator, which approved the jab for Europe, is due to offer a further update on Thursday after several European countries halted its use due to reports of some people suffering blood clots following vaccination.
Mr Hancock told broadcasters on Tuesday: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is safe, we know that over 10 million people have had it in this country, and that’s what the British regulator says but also the World Health Organisation and even the European regulator.
“We keep the effects of these vaccines under review all the time and we know that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is saving lives in the UK right now so if you get the call, get the jab.”
The Health Secretary said “huge numbers” of people are still taking up the jab, adding: “The enthusiasm for getting the vaccine is incredibly strong and we’re still seeing that.”
It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a new statement saying it was also evaluating the reports, but still believed the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweighed any risks.
Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director, told a press briefing on Tuesday there was no current indication that the Oxford/AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine was the cause of the “very rare” reported blood clots.
“I want to stress at present there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions,” she said.
“They have not come up in the clinical trials and they are not listed as known side events with this vaccine.
“In clinical trials both vaccinated people and people who received the placebo have shown some very small number of blood clot developments.
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“The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population.”
Some countries have suspended use of a particular batch of the jab due to concerns, but Ms Cooke said the small number of reports from Europe involved several batches and “therefore it is unlikely to be something related to a specific batch”.
However, she said this would form part of the EMA’s ongoing investigation.
Some 30 cases of blood clots had been reported to the EMA by March 10 among almost five million people vaccinated, but additional cases had been reported over the weekend, Ms Cooke said.
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She said there would be an increase in the reporting of such cases due to the publicity surrounding the current reports.
The EMA is looking at the incidence of blood clots and some reports of abnormally low levels of blood platelets among some people who have had the jab.
Ms Cooke said: “We have pulled together an ad hoc meeting again today to help us evaluate these cases with all the surrounding information that the member states will have.
“The experts will then carry on their assessment and again will meet on Thursday to come to a conclusion on the full information that has been gathered, and to advise us as to whether there are any further actions that need to be taken.
“We will inform the public of the outcome immediately after this meeting.”
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