AstraZeneca defends COVID vaccine amid concern over blood clots

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When can Americans go back to concerts and travel? Austria stopped using doses of one batch of the vaccine on Sunday after a 49-year-old nurse died of “severe blood coagulation problems” after receiving the shot. AstraZeneca defends COVID vaccine as handful of nations pause use over fear of blood clots

By Charlie D’Agata

March 12, 2021 / 12:41 PM
/ CBS News

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The United States has stockpiled tens of millions of doses of the Oxford-developed vaccine, but AstraZeneca, the university’s British-Swedish pharmaceutical partner, has yet to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency medical use authorization, pending on the results of U.S. But in a world desperate for vaccines, time spent waiting for new safety assurances over what many see as unwarranted concerns is a luxury few can afford. AstraZeneca exec on vaccine rollout in U.S. clinical trials. 07:17

London — Thailand abruptly slammed the brakes on use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine this week on the very day it was scheduled to be rolled out. 03:28

Officials from the European Medicines Agency stressed that “there is currently no indication that vaccination causes these conditions,” and “the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered.”Even the countries that paused the use of the vaccine in Europe noted that there was no evidence the clots were caused by the AstraZeneca shot — only that they occurred after it was administered. Soon, Wall Street bets

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U.S. The government there also stalled in approving its use for people over the age of 65, citing a lack of specific trial data, but that decision was reversed and German officials have been among those critical of the halt to vaccination programs in the other European countries this week.South Africa also temporarily suspended the vaccine after a small clinical trial found that it failed to sufficiently protect against infection with the COVID-19 variant that has swept through that country.The head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Andrew Pollard, said real-world data from the U.K.’s mass-vaccination program recently showed a 94% drop in hospital admissions for those who have received the Oxford vaccine — even more impressive figures than with the Pfizer formula. “So the real-world evidence confirms in real life what we saw in the clinical trials — it absolutely exceeded the expectations of the trials.”With three vaccines approved in the U.S. First published on March 12, 2021 / 12:41 PM now and distribution ramping up by the day, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s role in the country may be less critical. But the recent safety scares are just the latest in a series of publicity setbacks for the vaccine. On Friday, the Congo also put the roll-out of the vaccine on hold, citing the European nations’ moves.But AstraZeneca tells CBS News there’s no link between its vaccine and blood clotting, and health authorities with both the European Union and the World Health Organization say there’s no evidence the drug is causing clots. 02:56

With trial data showing efficacy that fell short of the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines, some people in Germany and other countries were reluctant to take a “second class” shot. “In fact, the observed number of these types of events are significantly lower in those vaccinated than what would be expected among the general population.”

Oxford researchers attempt to battle variants… Thai authorities put the COVID-19 vaccine on hold over concerns that it could cause fatal blood clots, following similar decisions by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Bulgaria. Steve Parsons/Pool/REUTERS

“We haven’t had any hospitalizations or deaths in those individuals who were vaccinated with the vaccine,” Pollard said.  More than 70 countries worldwide have begun using it, with tens of millions of doses already administered. “An analysis of our safety data of more than 10 million records has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said. Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and a professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity, receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England, January 4, 2021. German patients wary of taking Oxford vaccine… An executive with the company told CBSN on March 5 that AstraZeneca hoped to apply for that authorization “in the next few weeks.”

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Last year the Trump administration pledged almost $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca to help with the development of the vaccine at Oxford University, in exchange for 300 million doses.Easier and cheaper to manufacture and distribute than the other vaccines already approved in the U.S., the Oxford shot had long been considered the front-runner candidate for inoculation programs not only in America, but around the globe.