AstraZeneca vouches for vaccine’s safety

British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca said there is no scientific evidence to back claims that its coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine, AZD1222, triggered blood clotting or pulmonary embolism.

It gave the assurance after several countries in the European Union suspended the use of AZD1222, which was co-developed with the University of Oxford, following reports of blood clotting among those who had been vaccinated.

In a statement, the drugmaker said based on available safety data on more than 17 million people who had been vaccinated in the EU and United Kingdom, the vaccine had shown no evidence of increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia in any “defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.”

While it acknowledged that there were 15 events of DVT and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those who had been given AZD1222 shots, the company said the figure was lower than what it expected in a general population.

AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, Ann Taylor, said the number of blood clotting cases that were reported in the group was lower than the hundreds of cases that were expected among the general population.

ON THEIR TOES A Manila policeman accosts a rider at a checkpoint in Divisoria district on March 15,
2021, the first day of the implementation of a unified curfew in Metro Manila. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

“The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety,” she said in a statement.

She noted that there were no confirmed issues related to any batch of the vaccine used across Europe or the rest of the world.

On Friday, the Department of Health (DoH) and the Food and Drug Administration approved the continued use of AZD1222, as they concurred with the European Medicines Agency that there was no indication that the vaccine caused blood clotting.

AZD1222 was one of the first vaccines to arrive in the Philippines, along with Sinovac’s CoronaVac.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) country representative, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, on Monday said the benefits of AZD1222 “far outweigh” the reported side effects.

Abeyasinghe vouched for the vaccine during the launch of the EU support to the WHO’s Covid-19 response in the Philippines.

The EU delegation to Philippines has allotted about P128 million or €2.3 million to support the country’s vaccine rollout.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Véron said under the EU program, the WHO “will work with the Philippine health system and strengthen the monitoring and testing capacities.”

“The EU support will help strengthen the capacity of Philippine health institutions and workers to manage the caseload, while maintaining essential health services,” he said in a speech.

“Right now [the] WHO’s position is clear: the benefits of using AstraZeneca vaccine at the population level far, far outweigh the questionable link between these sporadic cases of blood clotting,” Abeyasinghe said during the forum that followed.

“So, our position remains that we strongly advocate for all countries to continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccines — all age groups,” he continued.

In vaccinating the elderly “you would assume to see with the same frequency that you see health problems happening. But linking them to vaccines because vaccines are rolled out has to be done very carefully,” he said.

Health authorities are keen on securing more vaccine doses as Covid-19 cases surged in recent weeks and new variants emerged.

The DoH Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr. Alethea de Guzman said her team was checking if the country’s first patient with P.1 or the Brazilian variant finished his mandatory quarantine.

De Guzman said the patient was a returning migrant worker who arrived from Brazil in February and who was quarantined.

At the end of his quarantine, the patient returned to his province in Western Visayas.
De Guzman said the case needed to be followed up to assure that the patient completed the isolation period.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) would discuss if there is a need to enforce a stricter community quarantine protocol following the increase in Covid-19 cases.

“We will see what happens in the next few days if there are continuing increases, then that is one of the possible recommendations that the IATF will discuss before recommending the President, that’s for sure,” Duque, who also acts as the chairman of the IATF-EID, told a TV interview.

Last Saturday, Octa Research member and microbiologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco told The Manila Times the country should consider a two-week “circuit breaker” to control the spread of the disease, which he described as “troubling.”

The country posted 5,404 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, another record for the year since the 5,000-case milestone on Saturday.

The number puts the total Covid-19 cases at 626,893 cases since the enhanced community quarantine was implemented in Metro Manila last year.

On March 15, 2020, the country had only 140 new Covid cases.

There were 71 new recoveries, for a total of 560,577, or 89.4 percent recovery rate. The death toll stood at 12,837.