Here’s a quick recap of where we’re at on the AstraZeneca vaccine

A nurse prepares the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31.
A nurse prepares the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Deisenhofen, Germany, on March 31. Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images

The events of the past 24 hours have left many worried and unsure of exactly how safe the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is.

A quick recap:

After days of speculative media coverage, European drug regulators on Wednesday confirmed a possible link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, and UK authorities recommended that people under 30 should take alternative vaccines.

While the European Medicines Agency and its British counterpart acknowledged that growing evidence pointed to a link, they both emphasized that the chances of clots were on balance still very low and that the vaccine was still very effective at preventing Covid-19.

The EMA’s decision was based on 18 deaths in 62 cases of clotting in the sinuses that drain blood from the brain and 24 cases of clotting in the abdomen. The cases were reported in an EU database from European countries, including the UK, where around 25 million people have had the vaccine.

The European regulator advised that the vaccine still be used as normal, while the UK advised that people under the age of 30 should receive a different vaccine. The reason for this is that as the age group gets younger, the chances of serious illness or death from Covid-19 lessens, meaning the margin between the benefits and the risks narrows. 

The British government is already fighting back in the hope that Wednesday’s news won’t lead to vaccine hesitancy. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock sought to reassure Britons this morning that the vaccine rollout was proceeding “in the safest way possible.”

“Be reassured by the fact that we’re taking an abundance of caution,” Hancock told Sky News Thursday. “All three vaccines that are in use in the UK are safe, and they’re safe at all ages. But there is a preference for the under-30s, if they want to have the Pfizer or Moderna jab instead.” 

The Daily Telegraph newspaper even found and spoke to the family of a man who died from a blood clot after having the vaccine, saying that they still believe people should take the jab when given the chance.

This story, of course, has implications beyond the UK, and developments in the coming days will be very important in the global fight against coronavirus. Many developing countries are depending on the AstraZeneca vaccine as a way out of the pandemic.

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