Tue | Oct 19, 2021

WHO official calls vaccine blood clots ‘very rare’

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2021 | 9:44 AM
In this March 8, 2021 file photo, a syringe with the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 is pictured at a new vaccination centre at the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin, Germany. (Tobias Schwarz / Pool via AP)

GENEVA — A top World Health Organization expert on vaccines says people should feel reassured that even if health authorities turn up a link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine, such cases are “very rare.”

Dr Kate O’Brien, who heads WHO’s department of immunisations and vaccines, said the UN health agency and the European Medicines Agency are trying to investigate the possibility of a link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca shots.

The potential side effect has prompted some countries -- mostly in Europe -- to temporarily suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A WHO committee on vaccines is looking into the issue.

The current “benefit-risk assessment” from the European Medicines Agency and WHO is for countries to continue giving people AstraZeneca shots, she said.

Both WHO and EMA are expected to present updated recommendations on Wednesday or Thursday.

O’Brien said in general “vaccine recommendations are dynamic,” and are reviewed over days, months, and years.

She noted that blood clots occur regularly in the population.

Dr Annelies Wilder-Smith, a technical adviser to a WHO expert panel on vaccines, noted that studies on the J&J vaccine involving some 42,000 people turned up 10 cases of blood clotting in the placebo group -- slightly more than half of all participants -- and 14 cases among those who were administered the vaccine.

She called that difference “not statistically significant.”

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