Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe? Why the UK is carrying on with the Oxford Covid jab, while Europe hits pause

There is no evidence that blood-clotting happens at a higher rate than among the unvaccinated – so the UK is confident that it can keep rollout going

The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine has been challenged on a number of fronts in recent weeks – with Germany and other European countries initially withholding the jab from the over 65s and French president Emmanuel Macron saying it was “almost ineffective” in that age group.

Those countries are now giving the jab to the over 65s after a slew of ‘real-world’ data shows it to be extremely effective at preventing infection, symptoms and death in all age groups.

Now, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands and Italy’s Piedmont region have suspended the vaccine after reports of serious clotting in adults in Norway.

In each case, they said it was just a precaution, until further analysis can be undertaken.

There are good reasons to believe the blood clotting has nothing to do with the vaccine – since the rate at which this has happened among those who have been vaccinated, including these latest cases, is lower than for the population as a whole.

The UK Medicines Regulator has once again backed the vaccine and urged people to get the jab – and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and leading scientists are saying the same.

While it is important to keep an open mind and review any new evidence that comes to light, there is not any concrete new evidence to review.

With millions of people getting the jab there are bound to be people who become ill – the question is whether they would have become ill anyway or whether it is due to the vaccine. And the evidence so far strongly suggests there has been no increase in clotting among those vaccinated.

While iti s good to be cautious, the genuine threat posed by the jab has to be weighed against the benefits of being vaccinated and the damage unfounded concerns can have on a process that is already being hindered by vaccine hesistency and outright scepticism.

As Professor Adam Finn of the University of Bristol said: “If clear evidence of serious or life threatening side-effects emerges, that will have important consequences. However, so far it hasn’t and it’s highly undesirable to disrupt a complex and urgent programme every time people develop illnesses after receiving vaccine that may be coincidental and not causally related.”

“Making the right call in situations like this is not easy but having a steady hand on the tiller is probably what is needed most.”