World Medical Association President Frank Ulrich Montgomery is casting doubt on the temporary halt to vaccinations with Astrazeneca. "The fact that people get thromboses and pulmonary embolisms does not necessarily have anything to do with the vaccination," Montgomery told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Tuesday. According to the international studies he is aware of, the frequency of thrombosis was about the same in the placebo group and in the group with the vaccine, he said.
Montgomery also warned of image damage for the vaccine. "The bottom line is, unfortunately, that this vaccine, which is actually good and effective, is not gaining a higher acceptance among the population because of the fuss and the suspension of vaccination in many countries," the World Medical Association president said.
However, Montgomery welcomed a fundamental review of the incidents. He said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has once again confirmed that Astrazeneca is a safe and effective vaccine against the Corona virus. "Nevertheless, it is right for national authorities to review suspected cases of serious adverse reactions."
Germany, Ireland, France and Italy suspend vaccinations
Previously, Germany, France and Italy, among others, had suspended vaccination of Astrazeneca's drug. They did so in response to a number of cases of severe blood clots following vaccinations. The British-Swedish manufacturer rejects the concerns.
Christoph Spinner, the pandemic officer at the Klinikum rechts der Isar of the Technical University of Munich, also takes a critical view of the suspension of vaccinations with the Astrazeneca product. Safety is the top priority, he says. Whether the vaccination should have been suspended can at least be questioned, the senior physician at the university hospital told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "The Astrazeneca is the second most important vaccine for us."
The figure cited by German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) of seven cases of specific thrombosis of the cerebral veins in 1.6 million vaccinations in Germany is very low, he said. "The events are very rare," Spinner says. And, "We currently prioritize vaccinating people with pre-existing conditions." In some cases, he says, these patients have an increased risk of thromboembolism from the outset.
Several experts criticize decision
"The advantages of vaccination outweigh the disadvantages," emphasizes the physician, which is currently also confirmed by the European Medicines Agency EMA in a current statement. "By the way, severe Covid 19 disease also regularly causes thromboembolic events - for this reason alone, vaccination makes absolute sense."
He said it is a normal process for potential side effects to be continually investigated after vaccines and drugs are approved. "The vaccine has not been recalled - and it should not be destroyed," Spinner says. He said there is currently no assumption for a specific mechanism that would lead to the cerebral vein thromboses. "The drug is safe based on everything we know today."
In light of the recent reports, however, Spinner expects that the reporting numbers for corresponding cases will now go up - which in turn will further reduce confidence in the important vaccine, he said. That's another reason he's quite critical of the move. "The decision to suspend vaccination causes great damage to the confidence of the vaccine. It's also difficult to repair later."
"Difficult decisions in unusual times"
British statistics professor David Spiegelhalter has criticized the decision in Germany to temporarily halt vaccinations with the Astrazeneca vaccine. "In the face of uncertainty, it is good to be cautious. But in the current circumstances with rising case numbers in Germany, prudence should dictate vaccinating as many people as possible as soon as possible," the Cambridge University professor told Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Tuesday. In addition, he said, potential harm from reinforcing reservations about the vaccine should be considered. "These are difficult decisions in unusual times," Spiegelhalter said.
In a guest article in the Guardian on Monday, the scientist warned against seeing causal links where there are none. He said that the clinical trials that led to the approval of the Astrazeneca vaccine in the United Kingdom and the experience of the vaccination program in the country, with around ten million doses of the preparation administered, had shown that the vaccine was "extraordinarily safe."
Paul Ehrlich Institute defends vaccination ban
The president of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Klaus Cichutek, justified the recommendation of a temporary vaccination stop with AstraZeneca's preparation. "Citizens want to be confident that the vaccines we approve are safe and effective," he said in an interview on ARD's "Tagesthemen."
"I think we have a special obligation here." With more than 1.6 million vaccinations with the AstraZeneca active ingredient in Germany to date, the institute is now aware of seven cases of thrombosis that occurred in temporal connection with an AstraZeneca vaccination, he said. It was therefore justified to pause for a moment. Now, discussions must be held throughout Europe, and the European data must be compared.
Söder: lift prioritization after re-release
In the view of Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU), prioritization should be lifted for this Corona vaccine after it is re-released by Astrazeneca. He does not believe that the vaccine would generally remain suspended, said Söder on Monday evening in the ARD "Brennpunkt".
After the review, he said, it would probably be possible to determine "that vaccination can at least be carried out for many groups. "Endlessly long priority lists" would then no longer make sense. "That's when you really have to release," Söder said, "I know so many people who would immediately get vaccinated with Astrazeneca. I would also stand immediately."
Image by Wilfried Pohnke