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Greeks Back Off AstraZeneca Over Clot Risk, No EU Consensus

Αssociated Press

A memeber of the medical staff at a vaccination center during a presentation for media by the Greek Health Ministry in Athens, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS -- After the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was a link between the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clots, which can kill, Greeks scheduled for the shot lined up at pharmacies trying to change to another version.

They were also reportedly either not showing up for AstraZeneca doses at vaccination centers or canceling and frantically trying to get either the Pfizer-BionTech or Moderna inoculation, reports said.

The EMA had earlier said AstraZeneca was safe but confusion reigned over the risk and European Union health ministers can’t decide whether it is, critics warning the indecision has eroded trust in the shot, including in Greece.

EU health officials held an extraordinary virtual meeting after the EMA reversed itself after saying there were possible links with very rare cases of unusual blood clots with low blood platelet counts, although it said the vaccine’s advantages still outweighed risks.

Before the meeting, ministers were urged by Portugal, current president of the Council of the EU, to seek common ground on the use of the vaccine, a letter seen by the news agency Reuters showed.

But, typical of the EU, they couldn’t agree on what to do, bringing near panic over whether the vaccine is safe or not, so many people not wanting to take it that supplies of the other versions are being swallowed up.

“We expect this announcement (from EMA) will have a direct and immediate impact not only on our national vaccination plans, but also in our citizens’ trust in vaccines against COVI-19,” Portugal warned.

AstraZeneca earlier had broken its contract with the EU and failed to deliver required doses, the bloc’s leader doing nothing about other than complaining, with no result.

“Harmonization at an EU level will be essential to stop the spread of misinformation,” Portugal’s letter added.

 EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, from Cyprus, who hadn’t been able to get AstraZeneca to deliver on its contract, now said that, “It is essential that we follow a coordinated European approach. An approach which does not confuse citizens, and that does not fuel vaccine hesitancy.”

But it’s that requirement for consensus that has slowed the delivery of all vaccines to the EU, which has an abysmal record in supplying them, and insistence on unanimous decisions that is adding to the uncertainty.

EU countries are recommending different age limits for the use of the vaccine, even though EMA recommended none because of a lack of data warranting them, another layer of doubt piled on.

Germany has limited the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60 and high-priority groups, and the country’s vaccine commission recommended that people under 60 who have had a first shot should receive a different product for their second dose.

France and Belgium said the vaccine should only be given to people aged 55 and over but Finland said the guidance is 65 and over and other EU countries have no limits.