FILE PHOTO: A vial labelled "AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine" is seen in this illustration taken January 16, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

AstraZeneca announced Global Withdrawal of COVID-19 Vaccine

In a significant move, AstraZeneca has announced the worldwide withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria. The decision comes amidst a “surplus of available updated vaccines” and a subsequent decline in demand for the vaccine since the onset of the pandemic. The Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was sold under the brand names Covishield and Vaxzevria. As per the House of Commons Library of the UK Parliament Vaxzevria and Covishield have the same chemical composition but are subject to different proprietary and licensing arrangements.

The pharmaceutical giant has also taken steps to withdraw the marketing authorizations for Vaxzevria within Europe, reflecting a strategic shift in response to evolving vaccine dynamics.

However, the decision to withdraw the vaccine also comes in the wake of concerns regarding its safety profile. Media reports highlight AstraZeneca’s previous admission, in court documents, of potential side effects such as blood clots and low blood platelet counts associated with the vaccine. While the vaccine has played a crucial role in global vaccination efforts, these safety concerns have undoubtedly impacted its utilization and demand. On 3 March 2021, Austria had suspended the use of one batch of vaccine after two people had blood clots after vaccination, one of whom died. In total, four cases of blood clots have been identified in the same batch of 1 million doses.

The withdrawal process was initiated with AstraZeneca’s application on March 5, with the effect becoming tangible on May 7. This timeline reflects a carefully considered decision-making process aimed at ensuring public health and safety amidst changing circumstances.

Furthermore, the discontinuation of production and supply of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine by the Serum Institute of India adds another dimension to this development. Serum Institute of India had stopped Covishield production since December 2021 citing decreased shot demands.

In conclusion, AstraZeneca’s global withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine marks a significant turning point in the pandemic response. While reflecting evolving vaccine dynamics and safety considerations, it also prompts a critical reflection on the future of vaccination strategies and the ongoing fight against COVID-19.


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