Contradictory information about new types of coronavirus vaccines, especially the British-Swedish AstraZeneca, continues to circulate on social media.
The controversy over this vaccine further intensified in the region when a nurse in Georgia who was vaccinated with “AstraZeneca” died of anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reaction) on March 19.
Rumors are regularly circulated on the Internet about the ban of this vaccine in different countries and its side effects. However, they often do not correspond to reality.
Since Armenia has also imported a batch of AstraZeneca vaccine, and the coronavirus vaccination will start on April 13, the Fact Investigation Platform decided to examine the reasons for the temporary ban on the vaccine and the conclusions reached by experts following relevant studies.
The AstraZeneca vaccine
AstraZeneca vaccine (renamed Vaxzevria) was created by scientists from the British-Swedish AstraZeneca company and scientists from the University of Oxford.
When creating the vaccine, the scientists took the usual adenavirus, which causes the flu in chimpanzees, and added a part of the genetic code of the coronavirus to it. It was introduced in late 2020 and as of now has been used in 118 countries.
According to a study published by the company (USA) on March 25, 2021, it is 76% effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The vaccination completely eliminates the possibility that the disease will be severe or there will be an urgent need for hospitalization.
The vaccine is 85% effective among people over the age of 65 in preventing symptomatic infection.
Temporary suspension of AstraZeneca’s vaccine
In early March, the use of AstraZeneca was temporarily suspended in some countries due to causing thrombosis in some people shortly after its injection.
On March 7, it was announced that a 49-year-old woman in Austria died of acute coagulation disorder after receiving the vaccine, and in another case a blood clot formed in the lungs of a 35-year-old man, but it did not have a fatal outcome. Authorities in Denmark said on March 10 that one person had developed a blood clot and had died after receiving the vaccine.
The vaccine was discontinued in 18 countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other countries.
On March 18, the European Medicines Agency announced that according to their research, the benefits of the vaccine against coronavirus (which in itself can cause fatal thrombosis) outweighed the risk of side effects. In addition, according to the study, the vaccine is not directly linked to an increase in blood clotting in those who receive it.
The agency also reported that as of March 16, 20 million people had already been vaccinated with AstraZeneca in Europe, but only 25 cases of blood clotting had been reported.
On March 19, the World Health Organization presented the results of its own investigation. According to the investigation, the AstraZeneca vaccine continues to have a huge potential to prevent infection and reduce deaths, and the use of the vaccine has not contributed to the general increase in the prevalence of blood clotting.
“Thromboembolic events do not exceed the expected number of cases of such pathological conditions. They can also be caused by COVID-19 infection. Cases of blood clotting after vaccination are lower than expected,” the WHO said in a statement.
As for the cases in Europe, when the blood clots were formed in the brain, the WHO did not find any correlation between these events and vaccination.
The vaccine is used again
The use of vaccine was resumed in most European countries after a study by the European Medicines Agency.
For instance, Germany decided that AstraZeneca would only be allowed amog citizens over the age of 60. On March 31, President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier received the first dose of this vaccine.
However, the response was mixed in Northern Europe. In Finland, Sweden and Iceland, AstraZeneca is only allowed for adults, and in Denmark and Norway it will not be used until at least mid-April.
On April 7, the European Medicines Agency issued the second report, which states that abnormal levels of low platelets in the blood are one of the rare side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, the organization reiterates that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the side effects.
The issue of thromboembolic events after vaccination continues to be studied by scientists.
What vaccines did Armenia acquire?
In September 2020, the Ministry of Health joined the COVAX Facility initiative to purchase the COVID-19 vaccine. The initiative is coordinated by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other international organizations. The goal of the platform is to “provide COVID-19 vaccines to those most in need, regardless of who they are or where they live.”
The first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine (24 thousand doses) was imported to Armenia on March 28, 2020.
During a press conference on April 12, Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan announced that the purchase of the American “Novavax” vaccine is nearing completion. Armenia has a preliminary agreement with the Chinese government to provide vaccine batches to Armenia as a donation.
In addition, Armenia has bilateral agreements with Russia, and based on the agreement already signed, 15,000 doses of “Sputnik V” vaccine have been imported to Armenia, which are intended for 7500 people.
According to the decision of the Ministry of Health, AstraZeneca doses can be received only by citizens over 65 years of age, health care workers, chronically ill people, as well as residents and employees of social care centers over 55.
Health care workers aged 18-54, as well as chronically ill patients, residents and staff of social care centers under 54 will receive Sputnik V doses.
Thus, although a number of countries temporarily discontinued the use of AstraZeneca in early March, further studies have shown that only a small proportion of those vaccinated develop blood clots, and the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its side effects.