EU agency: AstraZeneca vaccine safe, will add clot warning

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Pharmacy Technician Katrina Bonwick administers a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Wheatfield surgery in Luton, England, Thursday, March 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON – The European Union's drug regulatory agency said Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn't increase the overall incidence of blood clots and that the benefits of using it outweigh the possible risks, paving the way for European countries to resume dispensing the shots.

France, Italy and Germany promptly announced they will start using the vaccine again on Friday. Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands said they will do so next week, though Spain said it might exclude certain groups to minimize any danger.

More than a dozen nations around the world had suspended their use of the vaccine over the past week following reports of clots in a few dozen of the millions of people across Europe who have gotten the shot. The question was whether the vaccine had anything to do with the clots and whether any action needed to be taken.

The safety committee of the European Medicines Agency "has come to a clear scientific conclusion," the head of the EMA, Emer Cooke, announced. "This is a safe and effective vaccine.”

She added: “If it were me, I would be vaccinated tomorrow.”

However, she said the agency “still cannot rule out definitively a link” between certain rare types of blood clots and the vaccine. The EMA recommended adding a description of these cases to the vaccine leaflets.

The debate raised fears that the safety questions would seriously undermine public confidence in AstraZeneca's vaccine, which is key to efforts to immunize some of the world's poorer countries, and further slow the lagging vaccination drive across the 27-nation EU at a moment when infections are rising at an alarming rate. Europe also relies on Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccines.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said he would be getting an AstraZeneca shot on Friday “to show we can have complete confidence” in it.