EU regulator ‘convinced’ AstraZeneca benefit outweighs risk

With coronavirus cases rising in many places, governments face the grimmest of dilemmas: push on with a vaccine that is known to save lives or suspend use of AstraZeneca over reports of dangerous blood clots in a few recipients, even as the European regulator says there is “no indication” the shot was responsible.

It has created a jagged divide across the globe, forcing politicians to assess the health risks of halting the shots at a time when many countries, especially in Europe, are already struggling to overcome logistical hurdles and vaccine hesitancy among their populations.

Pharmacist Rajan Shah prepares a syringe of the AstraZeneca vaccine at St John’s Church, in Ealing, London, Tuesday, March 16, 2021 (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Sweden was the latest to join a swelling group of European Union nations choosing caution over speed, even as the head of the European Medicines Agency says the agency is “firmly convinced” that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the risks.

Emer Cooke notes that thousands of people across the EU develop thromboses every year for a variety of reasons and that there were no reports of increased blood clots in the clinical studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Still, experts will undertake a “very rigorous analysis” and make a recommendation Thursday, she says.