Don’t panic over AstraZeneca vaccine halt in Europe – Minister

Ramesh Pathirana

The government yesterday urged the public not to panic as certain European countries halted the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet media briefing held yesterday at the Government Information Department, Co-Cabinet Spokesman Plantation Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said that a number of European countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine amid fears the shot may have caused some recipients to develop serious blood clots.

“But Sri Lanka will continue administration of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Sri Lanka since only one batch of the vaccine has been temporarily suspended in certain European countries. Sri Lanka does not receive that particular batch of vaccine doses that have been suspended.” he said.

Dr Pathirana further said that the COVID-19 vaccination programme is successfully continuing and the country will be able to control the virus in the next three months. Vaccines provided under the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility are being used to vaccinate elderly people above 60 and another batch of vaccines is scheduled to arrive soon. As it was reported by international media Ireland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain have decided to halt the rollout.

During his regular media briefing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday (15) that more countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure after reports of blood clots in people who received the vaccine. That systems meant to protect public health were working, as several countries suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to investigate possible side-effects.

“This does not necessarily mean these events are linked to COVID-19 vaccination, but it’s routine practice to investigate them, and it shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place,” he said.

A WHO advisory committee plans to meet on Tuesday to discuss the vaccine, which Germany, France and Italy said on Monday they were pausing after several countries reported serious conditions in people who had received the shot.

Denmark and Norway had stopped giving the shot last week after reporting isolated cases of blood clots, bleeding or a low platelet count. Iceland and Bulgaria followed suit and Ireland and the Netherlands announced suspensions on Sunday.WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan stated that there had been no documented deaths linked to COVID-19 vaccines.

“We do not want people to panic and no association has so far been found between the “thromboembolic events” reported in some countries and COVID-19 shots.” she added.

(Source: Daily News – By Ishara Mudugamuwa)