Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine's Benefits Far Outweigh Risks, Say E.U. Regulators

The precautionary principle kills again.


Several European countries recently paused vaccinating their citizens with the Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZ) COVID-19 vaccine, in light of scattered reports that a few patients had developed blood clotting after being inoculated. Meanwhile, the continent has been experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Now the European Medicines Agency has evaluated the risks and the benefits of being inoculated with the AZ vaccine. "The benefits of the vaccine in combating the still widespread threat of COVID-19 (which itself results in clotting problems and may be fatal) continue to outweigh the risk of side effects," it concludes. Furthermore, "The vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots…in those who receive it." The agency's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee added that it "was of the opinion that the vaccine's proven efficacy in preventing hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 outweighs the extremely small likelihood of developing" blood clots.

The United Kingdom's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency notes that with 11 million doses of COVID-19 AZ vaccine administered so far, only five possible cases of blood clotting have been reported among the recipients.

One unfortunate side effect of the blood clot uproar will be a greater reluctance to get vaccinated with the AZ vaccine. Earlier this month, a Harris Poll in France found that just 43 percent of respondents trusted the AZ vaccine. A new poll by the Elabe Institute, published Tuesday, shows only 20 percent of the French people trusting the vaccine.

In his brilliant essay, "What is Seen and What is Unseen," the 19th century economist Frederic Bastiat pointed out that the favorable "seen" effects of any policy often produce many disastrous "unseen" consequences. Bastiat urges us "not to judge things solely by what is seen, but rather by what is not seen." Unfortunately, politicians in 16 European countries focused on the few "seen" blood clots while ignoring the "unseen" thousands of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths that timely vaccination could have averted.