- European Union’s biggest countries join the list of states who have stopped the rollout of AstraZeneca
- France, Germany, and Italy joined the list over the fears of the blood clot
- The World Health Organisation claims the vaccine is safe to use
Some of the largest countries of the European Union – France, Germany and Italy – have joined the stream of the states which have decided to halt their rollouts of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, on Monday, over the fear of blood clotting.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Europe’s medicines watchdog said that the vaccine was safe to use.
Both of these organisations are going to hold special meetings this week after a host of countries in the EU said that they will not continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine pending further review.
These latest suspensions come as major blows to the global immunisation campaign which the experts hope will help put an end on the pandemic which has already killed more than 26 lakh (2.6 million) people around the globe and completely destroyed the world economy.
3 of the largest countries of the EU – France, Germany and Italy – have all paused the rollouts as of Monday and have now been joined by out countries including Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.
What makes the situation even more pressing is that the suspensions were not limited to Europe, as Indonesia also announced a delay on its rollout of the vaccine which is cheaper than its competitors and was billed as the vaccination of choice for poorer nations.
However, the World Health Organisation has insisted that the countries should not stop using the vaccine, and added that it had scheduled a meeting of its experts on Tuesday to discuss the safety of the vaccine.
Soumya Swaminatha, Chief Scientist at WHO, said, “We do not want people to panic and we would, for the time being, recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca”
She added, “So far, we do not find an association between these events and the vaccine,” referring to reports of blood clots from several countries.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which will be holding a special meeting on Thursday, reaffirmed the call from WHO for calm and said it was better to get the vaccine than not.
In a statement dated Monday, the agency said, “The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.”
The UK has already doled out more than 1.1 crore or 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab – more than the entire EU – apparently without major problems.
As policymakers struggled to manage the vaccine rollouts, Kaja Kallas, the Prime Minister of Estonia announced she had tested positive for the COVID-19 – underlining the continuing threat of the contagion.
She had tweeted that she would continue to work virtually and the government added that she had “a low fever but no other symptoms and is generally feeling well”.
Another reminder came from Italy who said that the pandemic is far from being over – most of the country re-entered lockdown on Monday as schools, restaurants, shops and museums were closed.
The streets of central Rome were deserted on Monday morning and the businesses already battered by a year of anti-virus measures braced for another hit.
Carlo Lucia, a coffee shop owner in Rome, said, “I’m staying open because I’m selling cigarettes, otherwise it would not be worth it”.
“It’s just a waste of money.”
In the meantime, the doctors of the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in Germany issued an urgent appeal for the new restrictions to avoid the 3rd wave as the British variant of COVID-19 takes hold there.
Over 350 million or 35 crore vaccines have already been administered around the globe, however, the poorer countries are still far behind.
Brazil, which has suffered one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the world, is now attempting to redress the balance and had announced that it will order over 138 million (13.8 crore) jabs, on Monday.
The EU has approved 4 vaccines as of now and has been monitoring several more, including the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.
On Monday, the Russian developers said that they had reached production agreements in key European countries.
This news came as the WHO said it has raised close to $ 250 million in the past year from individual donors and companies towards battling the pandemic.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General at WHO said that the fund’s success proved “what we can accomplish together in times of need”.
After over a year when WHO declared Coronavirus a pandemic, a much-anticipated report on the origins of COVID-19 is expected to be released this week.
The report follows a mission to find facts of the international experts who were assembled by the WHO and travelled to Wuhan, China in January where the virus first emerged back in December 2019.
Peter Daszak, the British zoologist, who is a member of the team of experts visiting China, said, “Within the next few years, we’re going to have real significant data on where this came from and how it emerged”.