Europe concludes this Friday a convulsive working week in which the news in the capitals of the Old Continent has been marked by a leitmotiv: AstraZeneca, the name of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company that is now the focus of all eyes. Five frenetic and complicated days that ended, however, with a message of almost unwavering unity: AstraZeneca’s vaccine is safe and will continue to be inoculated to those who want to receive it.
And there are few clearer and more direct ways of reinforcing this position than with a photograph. Like that of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson receiving the first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine with a thumbs-up. Or that of the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, with his arm rolled up and not looking at the needle while receiving the jab of the same formula as his British neighbor. “I felt absolutely nothing,” they both agreed.
Whether or not a picture is worth a thousand words, the fact is that France and the United Kingdom are not the only ones who have wanted to make their position clear. In Germany, which fears it is facing a new exponential growth in cases of coronavirus, the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said that she would also take the AstraZeneca vaccine, but that she will wait until it is the turn of her age group.
Meanwhile, in Italy, the newly arrived Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, assured late in the afternoon that, since he does meet the age requirements, he will soon be taking the Anglo-Swedish multinational’s formula. And this is because Italy is one of the countries that has opted to allow those who refuse this vaccine to receive other vaccines.
All this on a day when the WHO has once again come out to defend this drug for the second time this week, as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) did on Thursday.
“The vaccine is safe and effective,” the agency insisted, and so, for the moment, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Cyprus, which have re-inoculated it this Friday. They also think so in the Netherlands, which will do it again next week; in Portugal, which will do it on Monday and in Spain, which will wait until Wednesday. Denmark, the first country to halt the process, Norway and Sweden have not yet made a decision.
For now, the only defection has come from Finland, which has suspended this vaccine after registering two cases of thrombi in patients who had risk factors associated with these disorders.
In addition, the death of a teacher in Spain from a cerebral hemorrhage after receiving a dose of AstraZeneca has been ruled out this Friday as being related to the vaccination. The preliminary report following the autopsy found no evidence of thrombosis in the body of the deceased.
And from Germany has come good news. A German researcher has postulated a probable cause (and a cure) for why venous sinus thrombosis – albeit very infrequent – has been observed in a dozen German patients. Immunization could generate antibodies in the blood that attack platelets and form clots, which would explain the low platelet levels found in the cases described so far.