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Thursday, May 6th, 2021

WHO labels AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine blood clot issues rare, but worth continued study

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An assessment by the COVID-19 subcommittee of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has concluded that blood clots affiliated with the AstraZeneca vaccine are concerning but rare and require further study to determine a causal relationship.

All vaccines can come with their share of side effects, and all are issued on a concept of risk versus benefit. Blood clotting is one of the more concerning potential side effects sowing caution and concern recently among European nations in particular. Nevertheless, this latest evaluation from the WHO puts its findings in line with those of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which concluded earlier this week that blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, but that benefits continue to outweigh the risk.

GACVS noted that current information is not enough to determine beyond all shadow of a doubt that the clotting events are linked to vaccination itself but that they must be investigated through specialized studies to address safety concerns quickly. Figures of those affected remain low from among the nearly 200 million given the AstraZeneca vaccine to date. Nevertheless, active surveillance and continued charting of side effects will be key to further characterize what’s happening.

The committee warned that people should be aware of their own symptoms. If things like shortness of breath, chest pain, or leg swelling begin to emerge between four to 20 days after vaccination, they should seek medical help immediately. Further, GACVS recommended that a committee of clinical specialists be convened to address the matter specifically.

The subcommittee noted that rare adverse immunization events should be weighed against the risk of deaths from COVID-19 and the vaccines’ overall potential to prevent the virus and reduce related deaths. At least 2.86 million people have died worldwide as a result of COVID-19, the members said.