Australia and the Philippines joined the list of countries on Thursday that are suspending the administration of the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine to the younger population due to concerns over blood clots.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that the Anglo-Swedish laboratory vaccine, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, should not continue to be administered in that country to people under 50, unless they have already received a first dose without side effects.
“We take the necessary precautions based on the best possible medical advice,” said Morrison, who was advised by the Australian medical advisory board to follow the example of other countries, particularly in Europe, that have already decided to limit the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) indicated a “possible link” between the vaccine of the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and “very rare cases” of blood clots, but insisted on the benefits of the drug in view of the risks of side effects, given the severity of the pandemic.
On the same day, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that such a link is “plausible, but not confirmed”.
Several countries have already decided to draw limits and not to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine below certain ages for the sake of safety: 30 years in the UK, 55 years in France, Belgium and Canada, 60 years in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands or 65 years in Sweden and Finland.
Australia, which to date reports less than 30,000 cases of infections with the new coronavirus and 1,000 deaths in a total population of 25 million, had until this Thursday one million doses of anti-covid-19 vaccine administered, a performance below the plans outlined by the Government.
The country has the AstraZeneca vaccine to immunize most of its population, through doses imported from Europe, but also doses produced locally.
But the shortage of vaccines in Europe has led to delays in deliveries from AstraZeneca and the expected shipments of other vaccines (Pfizer / BioNTech and Novavax) have not yet started.
“I want to reiterate that we strongly encourage people aged 50 and over to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, as it is a very effective vaccine to prevent serious complications from covid-19,” said Brendan Murphy, head of the Australian Government health department, adding that the risk of blood clots associated with the vaccine was “extraordinarily low”.
Australia has so far reported a case of blood clots forming in a person who received the drug.
Today, the Philippines has also decided to temporarily suspend the administration of the drug from the Anglo-Swedish laboratory to people under the age of 60.
“I want to point out that this temporary suspension does not mean that the vaccine is not safe or ineffective, it just means that we are taking precautionary measures to ensure the safety of all Filipinos,” said the director-general of the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines (FDA), Eric Domingo.
The Philippines received an initial shipment of 525,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the international COVAX platform, which aims to ensure global and equitable access to vaccines.
“We are aware of the EMA recommendation (…). Although we have not recorded any such incident in the country, we are temporarily suspending the use of the vaccine to children under 60 years of age while awaiting the results of the evaluation from our local experts, as well as official WHO guidance, “added Eric Domingo.
Among the countries most affected by the covid-19 pandemic in Asia, the Philippines set the goal of vaccinating up to 70 million people this year, that is, two-thirds of its population.
The country is currently experiencing a peak of SARS-CoV-2 infections with 167,279 active cases.
The covid-19 pandemic caused at least 2,890,054 deaths worldwide, resulting from more than 133 million cases of infection, according to a report made by the French agency AFP.
The disease is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected in late 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.