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COVID-19 task force to review vaccine side effects, deaths as several countries suspend AstraZeneca jab

So far, Denmark, Norway, Iceland have paused the use of AstraZeneca shot after isolated reports of recipients developing blood clots.

March 15, 2021 / 09:07 AM IST
Representative image: Reuters

Representative image: Reuters

The government is undertaking a deeper review of post-vaccination side effects from both COVID-19 vaccines after several countries suspended the rollout of AstraZeneca's vaccine over blood clot fears.

"All deaths and hospitalisations following immunization are going to be re-looked at," Dr NK Arora, member of the National Task Force on COVID-19 told India Today.

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He further said that the AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, will not be singled out here. "We are reviewing all the deaths and hospitalisations. It is irrespective of the vaccine received. Very soon we will know more about the situation," he added.

Covishield has been developed by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India in partnership with the Oxford University and Swedish-British firm AstraZeneca. Covaxin has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech. Both vaccines were granted emergency use authorisation in January.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Pharma wrap | AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine on hold in Europe, what does it mean for India?

Meanwhile, Ireland on March 14 became the latest country to halt the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine. So far, Denmark, Norway, Iceland paused the use of the drugmaker's shot as a precaution after isolated reports of recipients developing blood clots.

Thailand also abruptly delayed its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, while  Austria  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Luxemburg suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved by both EMA and WHO. About 50 countries have given the go-ahead to the vaccine, making it one of most the widely used jabs in the world, along with Pfizer.

Read: Close to 3 crore doses administered in India; rising infections a worry

The firm has, however, insisted its jab was safe, adding there is "no evidence" of higher blood clot risks.

Backing AstraZeneca, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was no reason to stop using the jab. The WHO, which said its vaccines advisory committee was examining the safety data coming in, stressed that no causal link has been established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and clotting.

"Yes, we should continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said, stressing that any concerns over safety must be investigated.

Click here for Moneycontrol's full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak
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first published: Mar 15, 2021 09:07 am

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