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AstraZeneca starts global withdrawal of COVID vaccine, cites surplus of available updated vaccines

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LONDON/NEW DELHI, May 8: UK-based pharmaceutical major AstraZeneca has started global withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine, which was provided in India as ‘Covishield’ in partnership with Serum Institute of India, days after it admitted to rare side effects of blood clotting and low platelet counts.

The withdrawal has been initiated due to a surplus of available updated vaccines since the pandemic, the company said in a statement.

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AstraZeneca had partnered with Oxford University to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, which was sold in India as Covishield and as Vaxzevria in Europe.

The European Medicines Agency, the medicines regulator for the European Union (EU), issued a notice on Tuesday to confirm that Vaxzevria – known as Covishield in India – is no longer authorised for use in the 27-member economic bloc after AstraZeneca (AZ) voluntarily withdrew its authorisation in March.

It said it will similarly work with regulatory authorities worldwide to initiate marketing authorisation withdrawals for Vaxzevria as demand has been overtaken by the evolving nature of coronaviruses.

“AstraZeneca has therefore taken the decision to initiate withdrawal of the marketing authorisations for Vaxzevria within Europe. We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.

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“We will partner with regulatory authorities globally to initiate marketing authorisation withdrawals for Vaxzevria, where no future commercial demand for the vaccine is expected,” it was quoted by ‘The Daily Telegraph’ as saying.

Earlier, according to global media reports, AstraZeneca had admitted that its COVID-19 vaccines could in very rare cases have the potential to cause a rare side effect called — Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS).

In India, over 220 crore dosages of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered and a majority of those were Covishield.

“As multiple, variant COVID-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzervria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied,” it said.

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The company further said, “We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

AstraZeneca added that the company was “incredibly proud” of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic.

“According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over three billion doses were supplied globally. Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic,” the company said. (PTI)




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