Reports of extremely rare blood clots should not deter governments from distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine to their citizens, according to the World Health Organization’s Chief Scientists Soumya Swaminathan.
The vaccine’s reputation is being hit in public perception due to news coverage, Swaminathan said.
“This is what happens when science is played out on the front pages of newspapers and television channels,” Swaminathan told CNN on Wednesday. “We scientists are used to reading these papers once they are peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals. We are not used to science by press release, but that’s what’s happening now.”
She noted that the vaccine has already been widely deployed, with 20 million doses administered in Europe, 30 million in India, and another 10 to 15 million in Africa.
“And there's definitely no relationship between the more common clotting disorders or thrombotic events and the vaccine. What the WHO recommended is that the benefits of this vaccine clearly outweigh the risks,” she said.
Meanwhile, the WHO is continually monitoring data coming in every day about whether the current vaccines are effective against several major variants gaining prevalence around the world, Swaminathan said.
“Currently our recommendation is to go ahead with the available vaccines as we learn more, and of course, we are working with manufacturers as they develop the next version of their vaccines,” she explained. “So we might have vaccines next year, for example, that will address the variants in addition to the original strain. And that’s something for which WHO is involved in a global coordination.”
Swaminathan said new European Union proposals for stricter export controls on Covid-19 vaccines are a “self-defeating exercise.”
On Wednesday, EU commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis announced that the EU has proposed tighter controls on the export of Covid-19 vaccine doses.
“We really want to focus on identifying what are those obstacles, roadblocks, what are those supply chain issues that can be solved? But, again, this needs working together,” Swaminathan said.
“It needs leaders, it needs the CEOs of the companies to reach out to each other, including many companies in the developing world, which are available and eager and wanting to participate in this effort. So these are the kind of solutions we need to look forward to increase supplies rather than, you know, fighting and putting in export bans, which is really ultimately a self-defeating exercise,” she said.