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As the world continues to venture into the realm of the unknown, the expected reaction will often be fear, panic, and dread. Hence, the controversy behind the AstraZeneca vaccine adds yet another layer of mystery in the unknown realm of the coronavirus. While many relish the fact that the vaccine is providing a recurring solution for the covid-19 global crisis, the claims around the AstraZeneca vaccine are quite alarming. Thus, what is the truth behind the AstraZeneca vaccine controversy?

What is the AstraZeneca vaccine?

The AstraZeneca vaccine is an oxford vaccine created to boost the immune response against the covid-19. Scientists developed the vaccine out of a weakened version of a common chimpanzee cold virus. They modified it in a way that doesn’t cause illness while still looking similar to the covid-19. Therefore, after injection, the vaccine trains the immune system to fight against the actual coronavirus. 

Why are some countries halting the AstraZeneca vaccine rollouts?

The simple answer is that covid-19 is a relatively new disease with its vaccines still in the emergency use/experimental phase. There is no long-term data covering all the probabilities. Therefore, once a case is reported, scientists have to investigate every possibility as means of protection against any unforeseen side-effects.

However, it is important to note that whenever vaccines rollout on an international level, experts expect the report of some serious health issues or even death. Many random problems and unaccounted variables will cause such effects. 

Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe?

Though many European countries are choosing to halt the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine, experts from all over the world are assuring its safety. AstraZeneca released a statement earlier this week stating that they investigated the data of 17 million people who received doses across Europe. Then, they discovered that 37 of them developed blood clots. 

However, the investigation revealed that they found  “no evidence of an increased risk”  of blood clots in any age group or gender. Then, they added that “This is 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.”

Moreover, the EMA backed their claims stating that data shows “no indication” that the AstraZeneca vaccine is behind the blood clot yet. 

What is the WHO response?

As for the world health organization, they released a statement reassuring the vaccine’s safety. They also stated that they considered “the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks” while recommending the continuation of the vaccine’s administration.

Moreover, they reassured the public, saying “In extensive vaccination campaigns, it is routine for countries to signal potential adverse events following immunization. This does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to the vaccination itself, but it is good practice to investigate them. It also shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place.” 

“Vaccination against COVID-19 will not reduce illness or deaths from other causes. Thromboembolic events are known to occur frequently. Venous thromboembolism is the third most common cardiovascular disease globally” the WHO added in its statement. 

Furthermore, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan again denied the relationship between the blood clots and the vaccine on Monday. He also urged people against spreading panic and fear while proclaiming that there are no documented deaths linked to any of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Who are countries halting the vaccine’s usage?

On March 7, Austria was the first country to stop using the vaccine after issuing an investigation for a discovered death from coagulation disorders and a pulmonary embolism illness.

A few days later, Denmark followed Austria’s footmark and halted the vaccine’s administration after the death of a 60-year-old. Reports show that she experienced a blood clot after receiving the vaccine. 

The third was Norway. The country chose to stop the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the increasing reports of possible serious unaccounted side effects.

Then Iceland, Bulgaria, Ireland, and the Netherlands also stopped the vaccine’s distribution. Moreover, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain halted the vaccine as well.  On Tuesday, Sweden and Latvia announced that they too will halt the vaccine’s usage. 

In brief, experts find no serious relationship between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the blood clotting issues reported. According to many medical specialists, There’s no obvious biological mechanism linking both subjects. Thus, for now, it is safer to state that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

References:

Al Jazeera. (2021, March 16). AstraZeneca suspensions: What you should know, in 500 words. Coronavirus Pandemic News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/16/astrazeneca-suspensions-what-you-need-to-know-in-600-wordsBBC News. (2021, March 16). Covid: What is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine? https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55302595Error. (2021, March 16). CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/16/health/astrazeneca-blood-clots-europe-explainer-intl/index.html\The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine: what you need to know. (2021, February 12). Who. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-oxford-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-what-you-need-to-know?gclid=Cj0KCQjw0caCBhCIARIsAGAfuMzZCX5qRl58IBHR-Uwx2v5nMbsxtZQGumEFt1E6Gr4t8SzI_jmJQSEaAj82EALw_wcBWHO statement on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safety signals. (2021, March 17). Who. https://www.who.int/news/item/17-03-2021-who-statement-on-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-safety-signals