GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization (WHO) exhorted the world to keep administering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shots on Friday, adding its endorsement to that of European and British regulators after concerns over blood clotting.
“We urge countries to continue using this important COVID-19 vaccine,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.
He was speaking after the global health body’s vaccine safety panel said available data about the AstraZeneca shot did not point to any overall increase in clotting conditions.
European and British regulators also said this week that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s shot outweighed the risks, prompting various nations to lift their suspensions.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine is especially important because it accounts for more than 90% of the vaccines being distributed through COVAX,” Tedros added, referring to a WHO-led global vaccine-sharing scheme.
“There is no question. COVID-19 is a deadly disease, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can prevent it. It’s also important to remember that COVID-19 itself can cause blood clots and low platelets.”
The WHO’s global advisory committee on vaccine safety said in a statement that the AstraZeneca vaccine had a “positive benefit-risk profile” and “tremendous potential” to prevent infections and reduce deaths.
The WHO panel of 12 independent experts, who met virtually on Tuesday and on Thursday, reviewed safety data from Europe, the United Kingdom, India, and WHO’s global database.
“While very rare and unique thromboembolic events in combination with thrombocytopenia, such as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), have also been reported following vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Europe, it is not certain that they have been caused by vaccination,” it said.
(Reporting by Michael Shields, Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Hugh Lawson)