Pausing AstraZeneca COVID-19 Shots Is a Bad Risk/Benefit Call

"The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine...outweigh the risks of side effects."


Last week Austria, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland all suspended the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, citing reports of blood clots occurring in a few folks who had been inoculated with it. Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and the Netherlands have now joined them.

"There is no causal effect established or anything like that yet," Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin told CNBC, "but as a precautionary move in line with the precautionary principle and in an abundance of caution, our clinical advice was to pause the program whilst the EMA does a review of this."

The precautionary principle is an ideological construct that eschews risk-benefit evaluations and essentially requires that all new technologies be somehow proved entirely risk-free before they can be used.

"Many thousands of people develop blood clots annually in the EU for different reasons," the European Medicines Agency (EMA) points out in a statement today. "The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population." So far there been 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people inoculated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the 27-country European Union and Britain.

The EMA adds it "currently remains of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects" (emphasis theirs). In clinical trials, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to be essentially 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 infections.

The EMA is calling a meeting of experts Thursday to evaluate the blood clotting data and will decide if any further action is necessary. Food and Drug Administration regulators will doubtlessly be keeping an eye on the EMA's deliberations, since AstraZeneca is likely this month to file for an emergency use authorization to deploy its vaccine in this country.