Boris Johnson backs AstraZeneca jab and insists there's 'no evidence' behind its suspension by EU countries
BORIS Johnson today backed the AstraZeneca jab and insisted there's "no evidence" to justify its suspension by nine EU countries.
The PM insisted the shot, developed in Oxford, is "both safe and effective" after scientists also dismissed the scare stories from Europe.
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So far Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Lithuania have totally or partially stopped its use.
Non-EU countries Norway, Iceland, and Thailand have also taken similar measures over reports of blood clots in some recipients.
But asked about the issue today, the PM's spokesman said: "The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective.
"There is no evidence of any kind casual link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"Blood clots occur naturally and there is no evidence they are any more likely to occur following vaccination."
Policing minister Kit Malthouse also backed the jab, and said he will happily take it when his turn comes to be vaccinated in the next few weeks.
He said: "The scientists tell us that all is well, that the incidence of these particular problems is no greater than you would except on the population at large, and these things naturally occur anyway.
"The vaccine has been through very stringent testing before it was authorised for use.
"I'm hoping to be called for a vaccine in the next couple of weeks myself and if it's Astra-Zeneca I will happily take it in my arm."
The move by EU countries comes amid increasingly bitter wrangling between the bloc and the Anglo-Swedish drugs maker over supplies.
It comes despite scientists across the world – including the European Medicines Agency – insisting there's no basis for the fears.
Brits have been reassured the shot is safe and are being urged to continue receiving it.
The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was no evidence of a link between the jab and an increased risk of blood clots.
But the Netherlands today suspended its rollout of the jab, following Ireland – as well as a host of European countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency have also claimed there is no evidence.
Medical experts have said the blood clots are just a "coincidence", with others claiming that it's a "step too far" to stop people getting a jab that would protect them from serious disease.
The No10 spokesperson highlighted that there is no evidence that blood clots are any more common after vaccination.
"We urge anyone asked to get a vaccine to come forward to do so.
"We are continuing the vaccination programme and will continue to make sure we meet our target to vaccinate all those phase one groups by mid April", they added.
The suspension of the jabs came after a small number of reports of people experiencing blood clots in the days and weeks after their vaccination.
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, said “safety is clearly absolutely paramount” but no link had been found between the vaccine and blood clots.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “important to understand that a lot of stuff happens to people all the time in normal times".
He added: "In the case of blood clots here in the UK, we see about 3,000 cases of blood clots happening every month.
“So, when you then put a vaccination campaign on top of that, clearly those blood clots still happen and you’ve got to then try and separate out whether, when they occur, they are at all related to the vaccine or not.”
In the UK around 11 million people are thought to have had a dose of the AstraZeneca jab.
Following the reports of blood clots AztraZenca said it tested 17 million doses of the jab.
The pharmaceutical company said the 15 incidences of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine was "much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population".
"The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety," chief medical officer Ann Taylor said.
"In terms of quality, there are also no confirmed issues related to any batch of our vaccine used across Europe, or the rest of the world."
Experts have now said that the benefit of the vaccine outweighs any risks.
Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said that coagulation disorders are very common in patients with Covid-19.
He said that unless it was determined that these patients did not have the virus, then it would be "premature" to suggest it was the vaccine that caused the blood clots.
Prof Evans added: "Covid definitely causes coagulation disorders and each of the vaccines prevents Covid disease, including more severe cases.
"Therefore, it is extremely likely that the benefit of the vaccine notably outweighs any risk for coagulation disorders and the vaccine prevents other consequences of Covid including deaths from other causes."
He added that it was a "step too far" to stop people getting a vaccine that would protect them from disease.
Dr Hilary Jones this morning said that blood clots can be caused by a variety of reasons and stated that the fact this had happened to patients after they had the jab was a "coincidence".
According to Thombosis UK one in four people die from causes related to blood clot or venous thromboembolism (VTE).
There are different types of blood clots and the charity said that around one in 1,000 people are affected by venous thombosis each year – with many already having risk factors such as a serious illness or recent major surgery.
Dr Hilary explained: “They happen as a result of taking the oral contraceptive pill, they take place after trauma to the body where blood vessels are damaged.
“We see thousands of heart attacks and strokes every year because of blood clots.
“So there are going to be blood clots anyway before the vaccine was ever rolled out."
Prof Adam Finn, Professor of Paediatrics, University of Bristol added that a "stop-start" approach to vaccines needed to be "carefully considered".
He said: "In order to use vaccines effectively to help gain control over the pandemic there needs to be vaccine supply, vaccine delivery and vaccine acceptance.
"Getting all three lined up and in place at the same time is not easy and cannot be taken for granted while the need for rapid progress is obvious.
"If clear evidence of serious or life threatening side-effects emerges that will have important consequences."
He stated however, that this is not the case and that stopping vaccine programmes every time someone becomes unwell from a jab is "undesirable".
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