Everyone will have heard of the situation in Europe right now, with a whole list of countries suspending dosing of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. Sweden and Latvia joined that list today .But getting clarity on this is another thing entirely.
I have not been the biggest fan of the vaccine, because its initial rollout was (frankly) botched. It was difficult to figure out how efficacious it was, and that confusion persisted after further attempts to clear things up. The last figure I’ve seen is that the European Medicines Agency estimates the vaccine to be about 60% effective, and at the same time the EMA does not see safety concerns with it. But there are many member states of the EU who apparently disagree, citing reports of blood clotting problems and/or thrombocytopenia after dosing.
I think that there are several distinct levels to this problem. The first, obviously, is medical. The big question is, are the reports of vascular problems greater than one would expect in the vaccinated population as a whole? It’s not clear to me what the answer is, and it may very well be “No, they aren’t”. That CNBC link above quotes Michael Head at Southampton as saying that the data so far look like the problems show up at at least the same levels, and may even be lower in the vaccinated group. AstraZeneca has said that they’re aware of 15 events of deep vein thrombosis and 22 events pulmonary embolisms, but that’s in 17 million people who have had at least one shot – and they say that is indeed “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size“. It also appears to be similar to what’s been seen with the other coronavirus vaccines, which rather than meaning “they’re all bad” looks like they’re all showing the same baseline signal of such events across a broad population, without adding to it.