Health

BC's top doctor: All vaccines, including AstraZeneca, 'safe and effective'

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"I think [The Department of Health] are panicking behind the scenes because we've loaded the dice on AstraZeneca vaccine", he told ABC News Breakfast.

Germany's health minister Jens Spahn announced Monday that the country would suspend administering the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Ireland and the Netherlands have also suspended the vaccine until further notice. The countries are responding to reports from Norway and Demark that some people developed blood clots after taking the shot, though there is no direct evidence to prove they were caused by the vaccine. That could lead to severe bleeding. Viral vector vaccines like Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, force an immune response from the harmless version of the virus that's injected with those jabs. Germany and France followed on Monday.

AstraZeneca's shot is among the cheapest available and forms a bulk of deliveries to poorer nations under the WHO-backed Covax initiative, which aims to ensure vaccines get to all parts of the globe.

"We must always err on the side of caution, which is why it is sensible to press the pause button now as a precaution", said Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch health minister.

"To overcome the pandemic, it is important that people get vaccinated when invited to do so". It said there was "no evidence of an increased risk" of blood clots in any age group or gender in any country.

The moves by some of Europe's largest and most populous countries will deepen concerns about the slow roll-out of vaccines in the region, which has been plagued by shortages due to problems producing vaccines including AstraZeneca's.

Is there any proof the vaccine is responsible?

Italy's northern region of Piedmont also said it would stop using a batch of AstraZeneca coronavirus shots after a teacher died following his vaccination on Saturday.

Thailand, which became the first country outside of Europe to delay use of the AstraZeneca shot on Friday, plans to start using the vaccine on Tuesday, officials said, with the prime minister and his cabinet the first to receive it.

There have been no publicly reported cases of any side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine in Cyprus. The researchers behind the vaccine now argue that delayed doses, given three months apart, are actually more likely to improve its effectiveness, rather than smaller doses.

According to Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer none of the batches of the vaccine under investigation in Europe were shipped to Canada.

Health Canada technically considers them two separate vaccines, which is why some reports suggest there are five vaccines approved in Canada so far.

Provincial and federal authorities reiterated their confidence in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, as British Columbia announced its rollout plan for the doses aimed at protecting workers in industries which have suffered outbreaks and where quarantining may be hard. But the escalating concern is another setback for the European Union's vaccination drive, which has been plagued by shortages and other hurdles and is lagging well behind the campaigns in Britain and the U.S.

For now, people 80 years old and over and those between 50 and 64 years old are eligible for vaccines.

The EMA is now examining whether COVID-19 shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca might be causing low levels of blood platelets in some patients, a condition that could lead to bruising and bleeding.

She believes the risk of getting the vaccine is "dramatically decreased" compared to the risk from getting COVID-19.

Has AstraZeneca run into other trouble?

"If you have a vaccine that doesn't produce a reaction in people, the resulting immune response is weaker", said Earl Brown, a microbiologist with the University of Ottawa. "The actions taken by European countries demonstrates the robust vaccine safety processes that are in place".

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