Authorities in the Republic of Cyprus have resumed the vaccination program using the AstraZeneca vaccine, after EMA said benefits outweigh the risks, with the health minister criticizing fellow member states for creating confusion by not sticking to plan.
The European Medicines Agency on Wednesday said it had found a possible link between the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and rare blood clotting issues.
But the EU drug regulator stopped short of issuing guidelines, saying countries would have to assess the balance of risks themselves, while also adding that the benefits of getting the shot still outweighed the risks.
During a video conference after the EMA statement on Wednesday, EU health ministers failed to agree on common guidance on the use of the AstraZeneca, despite calls for coordination across member states to combat public hesitancy over taking the shot.
EU health ministers failed to agree on common guidance on the use of the AstraZeneca, despite calls for coordination across member states to combat public hesitancy over taking the shot
Cypriot Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou criticized some of his counterparts according to local media, saying member states that did not stick to decisions based on EMA were "causing confusion among citizens."
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides also told ministers that "it is essential that we follow a coordinated European approach, which does not confuse citizens, and that does not fuel vaccine hesitancy,” according to her talking points reported in the media.
Last month, a number of European countries including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, had suspended use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients. Age restrictions were later imposed by many governments.
This month, local reports in the media painted a picture of Cypriots being hesitant to book an appointment for AstraZeneca’s Vaxzervia vaccine against the coronavirus, citing fears over side effects including rare blood clots that made headline news in other countries.
The majority of blood clots abroad occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of the shot, officials said after the regulator's safety committee reviewed extremely rare cases of unusual blood clots in selected cases vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot.
In Cyprus, only one such case had been reported officially, according to Acting Director of Pharmaceutical Services Helena Panayiotoulou, who clarified it was up to the discretion of doctors and health professionals to determine whether a complication following vaccination should be officially reported to authorities.
Cypriot official: EMA does not recommend withdrawal
“EMA recommends that vaccinations go forward, it calls neither for withdrawal or anything else, so Cyprus will follow these recommendations concerning the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Panayiotoulou said.
Various side effects have been reported locally in a total of 122 cases, according to Greek Cypriot media.
The EMA has yet to identify specific risk factors that contributed to the rare clots.
Cypriot officials took to the media urging the public to go forward with their vaccination appointments including Vaxzervia, after people appeared to be choosing alternative jabs Moderna and Pfizer, leaving AstraZeneca slots unselected.
It was also reported that people seeking the alternatives had rushed to the registration website en mass on Wednesday early morning, crashing the system in just a few minutes.