AstraZeneca: What are the rare side effects of the Covid jab?

The pharmaceutical giant announced the withdrawal of it vaccine, Vaxzevria, due to a surplus

Jabed Ahmed
Thursday 09 May 2024 06:18 BST
Doctor explains science behind AstraZeneca's admission Covid jab can cause blood clots

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AstraZeneca has announced it initiated a worldwide withdrawal of its Covid-19 vaccine, months after the pharma giant admitted the drug could cause rare but life-threatening injuries.

The vaccine, initially known as Covishield, was developed by the pharmaceutical giant in collaboration with Oxford University, and produced by the Serum Institute of India.

The Anglo-Swedish company also said it would proceed to withdraw the vaccine Vaxzevria’s marketing authorisations within Europe.

On Tuesday, the European Medicines Agency issued a notice that the vaccine is no longer authorised for use.

The Covid jab was widely administered in over 150 countries, including Britain and throughout the EU.

The withdrawal of the vaccine has been attributed to a "surplus of available updated vaccines" since the pandemic, the company said.

Some studies conducted during the pandemic found the vaccine was 60 to 80 per cent effective in protecting against Covid.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

Recent research has found that Covishield can cause some people to develop blood clots, which may prove fatal.

AstraZeneca admitted in court documents lodged with the High Court in February that the vaccine “can, in very rare cases, cause TTS (Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome)” though the cause is unknown, according to The Telegraph.

“Further, TTS can also occur in the absence of the AZ vaccine (or any vaccine). Causation in any individual case will be a matter for expert evidence,” it added.

TTS is characterised by blood clots and a low blood platelet count in humans.

The complaint claimed the vaccine led to deaths and severe injuries and sought damages up to £100m for about 50 victims.

One of the complainants also alleged that the vaccine caused him a permanent brain injury after he developed a blood clot, preventing him from working.

The rare syndrome occurred in about two to three people per 100,000 who were vaccinated with the Vaxzevria vaccine.

The World Health Organization also confirmed that the vaccine could have fatal side effects.

“A very rare adverse event called Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome, involving unusual and severe blood clotting events associated with low platelet counts, has been reported after vaccination with this vaccine,” WHO said.

According to the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences, “very rare” side effects are those reported in less than 1 in 10,000 cases.

“In countries with ongoing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, the benefit of vaccination in protecting against Covid-19 far outweighs the risks,” the WHO added.

How widespread was use of the vaccine in the UK?

Around 50 million doses of the the Oxford-AstraZeneca were administered in the UK by autumn 2021.

However, the government largely stopped using the jab and it was replaced in the UK with Pfizer and Moderna jabs in time for the winter booster campaign at the end of 2021.

The pharmaceutical company said the decision to withdraw the vaccine is not linked to the court case.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said: “We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic. According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over three billion doses were supplied globally.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic.

“As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzervria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied. AstraZeneca has therefore taken the decision to initiate withdrawal of the Marketing Authorisations for Vaxzevria within Europe.

“We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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