Australian regulator says AstraZeneca vaccine rollout to continue

SYDNEY — Australia’s pharmaceutical regulator on Wednesday said the rollout of the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine would continue despite many European nations pausing vaccination to investigate serious side effects reported in some recipients.

John Skerritt, the head of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, said he held talks with more than a dozen European countries overnight and current evidence suggested there were no reasons to halt the immunization drive.

“We did a preliminary look at the evidence last night and while we are working very closely on this, we don’t have any signals that it will stop in Australia,” Mr. Skerritt told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.

Germany, France, Italy, and several other European countries suspended use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine pending the outcome of investigations into unusual cases of a rare cerebral thrombosis in people who had received it.

Europe’s medicines watchdog on Tuesday said the benefits of the vaccine continued to outweigh the risks.

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Australia began inoculating people with the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 7 and has secured nearly 54 million doses for its population of 25 million. Inoculation with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine started in February.

The country’s most populous state of New South Wales on Wednesday reported one new locally acquired COVID-19 case in a returned overseas traveler in hotel quarantine. A security guard at the same hotel contracted the virus earlier this week, ending the state’s run of zero cases for nearly two months.

Australia has reported zero or low single-digit daily cases for several weeks. It has reported just over 29,100 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. — Reuters

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