The World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety formally concluded Friday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks and recommended its use.
The committee gave a similar, preliminary opinion on the vaccine Wednesday.
During the agency’s regular COVID-19 briefing from its headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the committee had reviewed data on the vaccine after several European nations suspended administering it following reports that some patients who received it developed blood clots.
Tedros said the committee had concluded that the available data did not suggest any overall increase in clotting. While there were rare cases of some serious blood clots — known as thromboembolic events — there was no certainty they were caused by the vaccine, he said.
The WHO chief said it was important to note COVID-19 had also been found to cause blood clots.
The WHO committee recommended that countries continue to monitor the safety of all COVID-19 vaccines and promote reporting of suspected adverse events. They agreed with the plan of Europe’s drug regulator, the Europe Medicines Agency, to further investigate and monitor for these events.
The EMA made a similar ruling on the vaccine Thursday.
While acknowledging the concerns many had about the vaccine, Tedros said there was no question about the benefits of the drug in its ability to prevent COVID-19.
He said the AstraZeneca vaccine was especially important because it accounted for more than 90% of the vaccines being distributed through the WHO-administered global vaccine cooperative, COVAX.