The EU’s 27 member states have been urged by Brussels to bolster public confidence by coming up with a unified response to the finding by regulators that blood clots are a rare side-effect of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
At a meeting of health ministers and officials from the European medicines agency (EMA), which announced the finding about the Covid vaccine while also insisting it vaccine should still be widely used, the EU’s governments were divided over what restrictions if any should be imposed on its use.
The EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said in a statement after the meeting that it was vital that a common policy was formed, given the faltering confidence among the public in the vaccine.
She said: “The safety of our vaccines has always been paramount under our EU vaccines strategy. Today’s assessment shows that our pharmacovigilance system works: suspected side-effects are reported rapidly, information is shared and our experts come together swiftly to assess all available evidence.
“Our decisions should now be based on the scientific work of EMA, and a rigorous, continuous assessment of risks and benefits. I have today called on health ministers to follow a coordinated approach across Europe to improve public confidence.”
The EMA had stressed in its findings on Wednesday that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risk and that there was no evidence to justify limiting the administration of the vaccine to specific age groups.
Despite the conclusion, about 17 member states have put restrictions on its use, with Belgium being the latest to say it will only administer the jab to those over 55 in the next month.
The UK’s regulator, the MHRA, has also recommended that healthy people under 30 should be provided with a different vaccine where possible.
Marta Temido, the minister for health in the Portuguese government, which currently holds the rolling EU presidency, said the member states should follow the scientific advice as they seek to come to a common policy.
She said: “This is a technical decision. It is not a political decision. We must continue to follow the best scientific information provided by EMA in its opinions. We must not forget that individual decisions affect everybody.”