Keep using AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots to save lives, WHO tells Europe

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FILE – In this Wednesday, March 10, 2021 file photo, a health worker administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 to a patient inside the convention center known as “La Nuvola”, The Cloud, in Rome. Irish health officials have recommended the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of serious blood clotting after inoculations in Norway. Dr. Ronan Glynn, Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, said Sunday, March 14 the recommendation was made after Norway’s medicines agency reported four cases of blood clotting in adults after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, file)

(Reuters) — The benefits of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh any risks and countries across Europe should continue to use it to help save lives, the World Health Organization’s European director said on Thursday.

Hans Kluge noted that Europe’s medicines regulators are investigating a small number of cases of blood clots in the region that have prompted around a dozen EU governments to suspend use of the AstraZeneca shot.

“As of now, we do not know whether some or all of the conditions have been caused by the vaccine or by other coincidental factors,” he said, adding: “At this point in time, however, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh its risks – and its use should continue, to save lives.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said so far said it has found no causal link between the vaccine and any clotting or blood coagulation reports.

Despite these reassurances, at least 13 EU member states, including Germany, France and Italy, have suspended use of the shot pending the outcome a fuller EMA investigation – expected to be completed on Thursday.

Kluge said gaining and maintaining public trust was “crucial.”

“We need to renew confidence, if it’s lost, to restore it – especially for AstraZeneca,” he said.

“Basically we do this by transparency, so communication from day one is very important,” he added. “Number two is showing empathy with the people. And number three is to be competent.”

AstraZeneca said on Sunday a review of safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the United Kingdom and European Union with its vaccine had shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

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