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expert reaction to reported Italy pause of a batch of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution after two deaths in Sicily

It has been reported that Italy has paused vaccination with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution following the deaths of two men in Sicily.


Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“There are a number of countries that have paused the use of the AZ vaccine, in some countries related to a particular batch.  Genuine problems with a batch are very rare and almost always relate to contamination by bacteria or physical (e.g. glass) particles detected by the manufacturer.  Pausing the use in this case is not evidence-based and as the European Medicines Agency states in the headline to its comment “COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca: PRAC preliminary view suggests no specific issue with batch used in Austria” and it is the batch that has also been paused in Italy.

“It is not known whether there are non-scientific reasons for the actions taken by some EU countries.”


Prof Anthony Harnden, Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said:

“Vaccine safety is critically important.  Our UK regulator, the MHRA, review all reports of adverse events for both vaccines as they are reported.  There have been more than 11 million doses of the Oxford-AZ vaccine administered in the UK and no excess reports of deaths or blood clots amongst those receiving the vaccine, compared with the expected rate in the population.  The public should have confidence that both vaccines used in the UK vaccination programme are safe and highly effective at preventing severe disease, including blood clots and deaths caused by Covid.”

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