Independent panel recommends continuation of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine rollout

March 22, 2021

An independent panel of experts recommended Monday that AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine rollout continue as there is no correlation between blood clots found in some recipients and the product.

The recommendation came as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Union’s medicines regulator, assessed last week that there is no evidence suggesting a correlation between the AstraZeneca vaccine and reports of blood clots.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine is effective and safe as it reduces the possibility of COVID-19 patients falling into a critical condition and the fatality rate,” Choi Eun-hwa, head of the panel, said at a press briefing.

“The benefit of receiving the jabs far outweighs the risk of its side effects.”

Safety concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine have recently mounted here as the country has reported two suspected cases of blood clots related to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

One of the patients died, with health authorities saying the death is highly likely to have been caused by other underlying diseases.

A man in his 20s was reported to have suffered from blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The man is in stable condition at a hospital.

But the panel added there is a need to closely study causal relations between some rare cases of blood clots in multiple blood vessels and in the brain and the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EMA said it has identified seven cases of blood clots, called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), and 18 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) from people who have received the AstraZeneca jabs.

“The blood clotting disorders rarely occur with the rate of around one in a million people. The casual relations between the AstraZeneca shots and the disorders have not been clarified yet,” Choi said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is among the cheapest available and considered to be easier to transport and store than its rivals, such as Pfizer’s vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage.

The country has administered the AstraZeneca vaccine to health workers and patients aged under 65 at nursing homes and long-term care hospitals. Starting Tuesday, it will begin to expand the use of the jab to inpatients aged 65 and older at such facilities.

Since South Korea began its vaccination campaign on Feb. 26, 676,607 people, or 1.3 percent of the country’s 52 million population, have received their first shots.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been given to 619,100 people, while 57,507 received that of Pfizer, according to health authorities.

The country has secured enough coronavirus vaccines to inoculate 79 million people, higher than its population of 51.6 million. It aims to achieve herd immunity by November.