Concepcion: Huge benefits outweigh risk on AstraZeneca vaccine

THE benefits of using AstraZeneca’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine outweigh its risks, Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” Concepcion 3rd said on Thursday, amid concerns that the drug could cause blood clots.

Concepcion made the statement following reports from various European Medical agencies regarding the currently being examined linkage of blood clotting with the AZD1222 and with the Department of Health (DoH) and Food and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcing its move to temporarily suspend its distribution to persons below 60 years old.

In a statement, Concepcion highlighted that we should focus on the huge benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine versus the risk.

“Of course any information like this is a point of concern. Most especially, we are expecting around 22 to 26 million total combined doses of Astrazeneca from the Covax facility, LGUs (local government units) and private sector procurement. Also, most of the workforce in the private sector belong to the age group below 60, same with the LGUs and other sectors, so this greatly affects a lot in our population,” Concepcion said.

“Vaccinating these sectors is very vital for the goal of our vaccination program, failing to meet these goals might have a direct hit on the economy,” he added.

The Philippines has so far received 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from global alliance Covax Facility.

The private sector and local governments’ order of 17 million jabs from AstraZeneca are set to arrive beginning May with an initial batch of 2.6 million. The remaining balance of 14.5 million will arrive in the third quarter of this year.

Concepcion said the Philippines has, so far, inoculated more than 500,000 individuals using the same vaccines.

“And if there are any extreme adverse effects, we should know it by now. Also, countries like Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, and many others have no restrictions except the UK, which restricts ages below 30,” he said.

Concepcion, also founder of Go Negosyo, said the AstraZeneca has promised that it would continue to work with the country’s FDA “to answer any questions they may have.”

“Patient Safety remains to be the highest priority for AstraZeneca. Tens of millions of people have now received our vaccine across the globe,” AstraZeneca said, as quoted by Concepcion.

“The extensive body of data from two large clinical datasets and real-world evidence demonstrate its effectiveness, reaffirming the role the vaccine can play during this public health crisis,” it added.

Aside from AstraZeneca’s assurance, Concepcion said that publications from medical experts “suggest that the AstraZeneca vaccine is still extremely effective and safe despite blood concerns.”

“All experts agree that vaccination of AstraZeneca continues to be a huge benefit to our vaccination campaign and the current cases of very rare blood clots are still within the risk parameters,” he said.

“The number is very clear. With the March 31 data from the UK, from the 20.2 million recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine, only 79 reported to have clotting issues—0.0000039 percent, around four in every one million people that would receive the vaccine,” he added.

Concepcion said the World Health Organization (WHO) “is carefully monitoring the rollout of all Covid-19 vaccines and will continue to work closely with countries to manage potential risks, and to use science and data to drive response and recommendations.”

“In extensive vaccination campaigns, it is normal for countries to identify potential adverse events following immunization. This does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to vaccination itself, but they must be investigated to ensure that any safety concerns are addressed quickly. Vaccines, like all medicines, can have side effects. The administration of vaccines is based on a risk versus benefit analysis,” the WHO said.

Quoting a statement from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Concepcion said that “the benefits of vaccination continue to outweigh any risks but the MHRA advises careful consideration be given to people who are at higher risk of specific types of blood clots because of their medical condition.”

The MHRA said it was “not recommending age restrictions in Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccine use.”

“No effective medicine or vaccine is without risk. We continually monitor safety during widespread use of any vaccine. This is to ensure vaccines are performing as expected, to identify any new side effects that may arise, and to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks,” June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said.

“The public’s safety is always at the forefront of our minds and we take every report of a suspected side effect very seriously indeed. We thoroughly analyse each and every report as we receive it and although the number of reports of CVST and other thromboembolic events has increased over the last week, so has the overall number of vaccinations administered, therefore these blood clots remain extremely rare and unlikely to occur,” Raine added.

Adding to the confidence of the public, “We have a rich source of data–the best data there is–and the MHRA and CHM will continue to keep this under close observation. The public deserve nothing less,” Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Commission on Human Medicine, said.