Risks from COVID-19 much higher than risk of side effects from AstraZeneca vaccine, says WHO

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WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing in Geneva on Friday that the World Health Organization still believes that the benefits of receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the cost of risking possible rare side effects.

“Even as we work to expand access to vaccines, we’re continuing to keep a close eye on vaccine safety,” said Tedros.

According to him, all vaccines and medicines carry a risk of side effects.

He added: “In this case, the risks of severe disease and death from COVID-19 are many times higher than the very small risks related to the vaccine.”

Earlier this week British and European medicines regulators found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca doses and rare cases of blood clots, with the United Kingdom announcing it would offer people under 30 an alternative vaccine. Later on Wednesday, WHO released a statement saying that “a causal relationship between the vaccine and the occurrence of blood clots with low platelets is considered plausible but is not confirmed.”

This point was reiterated by Tedros on Friday.

“The COVID-19 subcommittee of the WHO Global Advisory Committee on vaccine safety has reviewed available information from Europe and other regions and has said that a causal relationship between the vaccine and the occurrence of blood clots with low platelets is plausible, but more investigation is required,” he said.

“WHO, EMA and MHRA continue to recommend that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk of this very rare side effect.”

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