Days after admitting its vaccine causes TTS, AstraZeneca withdraws Covid-19 vaccine

The withdrawal has been initiated due to a surplus of available updated vaccines since the pandemic, the company said in a statement.

BySumit Jha

Published May 08, 2024 | 3:44 PMUpdatedMay 13, 2024 | 7:02 PM

AstraZeneca vaccine withdrawl

UK-based pharmaceutical major AstraZeneca has started global withdrawal of its Covid-19 vaccine, which was provided in India as “Covishield'” in partnership with Serum Institute of India.

The withdrawal comes days after AstraZeneca admitted to rare side effects of blood clotting and low platelet counts due to its vaccine.

It has been initiated due to a surplus of available updated vaccines since the pandemic, the company said in a statement.

AstraZeneca had partnered with Oxford University to develop the Covid-19 vaccine, which was sold in India as Covishield and as Vaxzevria in Europe.

“As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzervria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied,” it said.

The company further said, “We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and make a significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Earlier, according to global media reports, AstraZeneca had admitted that its Covid-19 vaccine could in very rare cases have the potential to cause a rare side effect called—Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS).

The symptoms of TTS are expected to occur between four and 42 days after vaccination.

In India, 1,74,93,57,213 doses of Covishield had been administered.

Also Read: AstraZeneca admits its Covid vaccine can cause blood clots in rare cases

What is TTS?

Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) is a rare health condition where two serious issues occur together: Blood clots form in the body, and there is a lower than normal number of platelets— the cells that help blood clot to stop bleeding, doctors said.

A blood clot in the blood vessel can cause thrombosis, which can reduce blood flow. Meanwhile, Thrombocytopenia occurs during low blood platelet count in the body.

It’s also called vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) when linked to vaccines.

However, the company while speaking of the vaccine, did not refer to the side effects, it said, “We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic. According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over three billion doses were supplied globally.”

It further said, “Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic.”

Also Read: 1,156 died in India after taking Covid vaccine, highest in Kerala, Parliament is told

Official data

According to Indian government data, 92,479 citizens had been hospitalised due to Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) in the country, which meant one out of 23,000 recipients.

Of these 261 were severe and only 2,539 cases were serious. The Indian Parliament was told in 2023 that 1,156 people had died in the country, with Kerala reporting the highest number of casualties.

Officials explained that the number of deaths was minuscule – one death per 2.3 lakh doses.

However, the Union health ministry then said that “Mere reporting of deaths and hospitalisations as serious adverse events does not automatically imply that the events were caused due to the vaccine”.

“Only properly conducted investigations and causality assessments can help in understanding if any causal relationship exists between the event and the vaccine,” it said.

Speaking with South First earlier, Malini Aisola, Co-convenor of All India Drug Action Network, said only a few individuals in India could move courts. “There is no accountability in India,” she said.

She further added, “To date, there is no compensation mechanism for people who suffered serious adverse effects or death due to the vaccine.”

“Despite repeated demands, the government had not put in place any mechanism, even though it knew that people would be affected given the scale of the vaccination and ruling several AEFI as related to the vaccine. They did not even issue a warning or ensure early clinical management,” Aisola said.

Also Read: 1,156 died in India after taking Covid vaccine, highest in Kerala, Parliament is told

(Edited by Sumavarsha Kandula)