Vaccine withdrawal: AstraZeneca can’t evade responsibility - The Tribune India

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Vaccine withdrawal

AstraZeneca can’t evade responsibility

Vaccine withdrawal

UK-based pharmaceutical major AstraZeneca has initiated global withdrawal of its Covid-19 vaccine, which was sold and administered as Covishield in India and Vaxzevria in Europe, amid a furore over its admission of a rare side effect, thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which can cause blood clots and a low blood platelet count. Citing commercial reasons, the firm has attributed its decision to a ‘surplus of available updated vaccines’. AstraZeneca has claimed that the vaccine withdrawal is not linked to the court case it is facing and that the timing is just a coincidence. However, the move is being seen as a damage-control exercise reeking of desperation.

The company’s legal troubles are not going to end anytime soon as TTS has been linked to at least 81 deaths in the UK as well as hundreds of serious injuries. Seeking damages, more than 50 purported victims and their relatives have moved the High Court of Justice in London. In India, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition pertaining to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was manufactured here by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The petitioner has sought that an expert panel be set up to investigate the side effect in question and that the government must provide compensation in cases where individuals died or became disabled after being inoculated.

It is not enough for AstraZeneca to assert that patient safety is its highest priority. Vaxzevria and Covishield undoubtedly played a major role in saving millions of lives and controlling the global pandemic, but the health problems caused by TTS cannot be overlooked. A thorough probe is the need of the hour. The regulatory authorities, which apparently failed to maintain stringent standards to ensure safe use of the vaccine, must also be brought to book. At stake is the people’s trust in vaccine safety in general, besides the accountability and credibility of vaccine makers.


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