AstraZeneca Withdraws COVID-19 Vaccine Globally Citing Surplus of Newer Vaccines
Moneylife Digital Team 08 May 2024
Soon after the European Medicines Agency issued a notice that AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine (now known as Vaxzevria) is no longer authorised for use, the pharmaceuticals company, citing a surplus of available updated vaccines that target new variants of coronavirus, has decided to withdraw the vaccine globally. In March this year, AstraZeneca voluntarily withdrew its marketing authorisation from the European Union (EU). AstraZeneca's vaccine was produced and sold in India through an alliance with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) under the brand name Covishield. Over 1.7bn (billion) doses of Covishield were given to people in India. 
 
In a statement, the Anglo-Swedish drug-maker says the decision to withdraw Vaxzevria globally was made since there is now a variety of newer vaccines available that have been adapted to target variants of Covid-19. This had led to a decline in demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine which is no longer being manufactured or supplied, it added.
 
A report from The Telegraph from the UK says that in court papers, AstraZeneca acknowledged side effects such as blood clots and low platelet counts from its COVID-19 vaccine. "Vaxzevria has come under intense scrutiny in recent months over a very rare side effect, which causes blood clots and low blood platelet counts. AstraZeneca admitted in court documents lodged with the High Court in February that the vaccine "can, in very rare cases, cause TTS."
 
"TTS – which stands for thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome – has been linked to at least 81 deaths in the UK as well as hundreds of serious injuries. AstraZeneca is being sued by more than 50 alleged victims and grieving relatives in a high court case," the report says.
 
However, AstraZeneca insisted the decision to withdraw the vaccine is not linked to the court case or its admission that it can cause TTS and says the timing was pure coincidence.
 
According to The Guardian, other countries have already stopped supplying the vaccine. It has not been available for use in Australia since March 2023, though its use was already being phased out in June 2021 due to the widespread availability of newer vaccines.
 
In 2021, AstraZeneca changed the name of its COVID-19 vaccine to Vaxzevria. The vaccine was authorised for use in those aged 18 and older, delivered as two injections, usually into the muscle of the upper arm, about three months apart. Some countries, including India, also used it as a booster shot.
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