Germany, France and other European nations have announced plans to resume using AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine after EU and British regulators boosted confidence in the jab, saying its benefits outweigh any risks.
The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) on Thursday declared it had concluded the vaccine is safe, though it said a link between blood clots in the brain and the shot could not be definitively ruled out.
The EMA’s review covered 20 million people given the AstraZeneca shot in the UK and the European Economic Area (EEA), which links 30 European countries.
The World Health Organization this week also reaffirmed its support for the shot.
Reports of 30 rare brain blood clots had prompted more than a dozen nations to suspend use of the shot, the latest challenge for AstraZeneca’s ambition to produce a “vaccine for the world”, as the global death toll from the coronavirus nears three million.
“This is a safe and effective vaccine,” EMA director Emer Cooke told a briefing. “If it were me, I would be vaccinated tomorrow.”
Within hours, Germany said it would resume administering the AstraZeneca vaccine from Friday morning. Health Minister Jens Spahn said suspending the vaccine out of caution had been the right call “until the clustering of this very rare type of thrombosis had been examined”.
France too said it would resume use of the vaccine, with Prime Minister Jean Castex saying he would receive the shot himself on Friday afternoon.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy would do the same, and that his government’s priority remained to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.
Spain said it was evaluating a possible resumption, while Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania said they would restart administering the vaccine immediately.
Many governments had said the decision to pause inoculations was out of an abundance of caution but experts have warned political interference could undermine public confidence in vaccinations.
Europe is lagging behind Britain and the US in the number of jabs administered to its people at the same time as a third wave is tightening its grip on the continent, causing new lockdowns.
The AstraZeneca shot was among the first and cheapest of the Covid-19 vaccines to be developed and launched at high volume and is set to be the mainstay of vaccination programmes in much of the developing world as it does not require super-low temperature transportation and storage.