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2021.04.08 11:59

Lithuania to continue administering AstraZeneca vaccines following EMA's report

LRT.lt2021.04.08 11:59

Lithuania will not stop vaccination with AstraZeneca jabs after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said blood clotting should be listed as a “very rare” side effect.

However, residents of Lithuania will be allowed to chose which vaccine to get, if more than one is available, and those who agree to have AstraZeneca will be informed about symptoms to watch out for, Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys said on Wednesday evening.

Read more: Lithuania has 60,000 unused AstraZeneca shots, says minister

“It is important to note that the EVA's report did not indicate any additional risks for men and only very small additional risks for women under 60. So vaccination safety remains unchanged for men and women over 60. Therefore vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccines will continue,” Dulkys said during a media conference.

After examining evidence of side effects of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, the EMA said in a statement that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects”, adding that the “overall benefit-risk remains positive”.

Still, several European countries have restricted the use of the vaccine: UK regulators said it would not be administered to people under 30, while Germany has temporarily stopped its use on people under 60. Denmark and Norway have extended a suspension of the vaccine's use until mid-April. Estonia has also announced that it will not vaccinate people under 60 with AstraZeneca shots.

According to Lithuanian Minister Dulkys, “different practices [among EU member states] leads to some chaos and communication noise”.

Read more: Lithuania pins vaccination failures on AstraZeneca ‘reputational crisis’

“Let's not forget that the EMA's general message is that the overall benefits outweigh all risks and the most important thing is that patients and doctors be informed,” he said.

Lithuania will not be altering its vaccination policies, according to Dulkys, since there is no evidence to warrant “a change in the general line, especially during the pandemic when infections are rising”.

Gytis Andrulionis, the head of Lithuania's State Medicines Control Agency (VVKT), said no blood clotting events had been reported in Lithuania.

The European drug regulator said it had received reports of 169 cases of a rare brain blood clot in people who took AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine. That number is compared to the 34 million doses of the shot administered in the European Economic Area, said Sabine Straus, the chair of the EMA's safety committee.

The EMA did not change its guidelines on administering the vaccine nor recommend any age restrictions.

It advised that people should seek immediate medical assistance if they experience the following symptoms within two weeks of receiving an AstraZeneca shot:

- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Swelling in your leg
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Neurological symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches and blurred vision
- Tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of injection