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AstraZeneca vaccine faces resistance in Europe after ‘side-effects’

PARIS: Health authorities in some European countries are facing resistance to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after side-effects led hospital staff and other front-line workers to call in sick, putting extra strain on already-stretched services.

Such symptoms, as reported in clinical trials for the AstraZeneca shot, can include a high temperature or headache and are a normal sign that the body is generating an immune response. They usually fade within a day or so.

The other shots approved in Europe, developed by Pfizer and Moderna, have been linked to similar temporary side-effects, including fever and fatigue.

But with the AstraZeneca shot the latest to be rolled out, health authorities in France have issued guidance to stagger giving the shot, two regions in Sweden paused vaccinations, and in Germany some essential workers are refusing it.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said: “Currently, the reactions reported are as we would expect based on the evidence gathered from our clinical trial programme.”

People receiving the vaccine are closely monitored through routine pharmacovigilance activities, the Anglo-Swedish drug maker said, adding that it was continuing to keep a close eye on the situation.

“There have been no confirmed serious adverse events,” the spokesman said.

‘MORE SIDE-EFFECTS’

In France, which started administering the AstraZeneca shot on Feb. 6, staff at a hospital in Normandy experienced stronger side-effects than seen with the alternative vaccine from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech.

“AstraZeneca caused more side-effects than the Pfizer vaccine,” said Melanie Cotigny, communications manager at Saint-Lo hospital in Normandy.

“Between 10% and 15% of those vaccinated may have side-effects from this vaccination, but it is only a feverish state, fevers, nausea and within 12 hours it goes away.”

Following similar reports from other hospitals, the French medicines safety agency said on Feb. 11 that such side-effects were “known and described” but should be subject to surveillance with regard to their intensity.

It also issued guidance to stagger vaccinations of front-line staff working together in teams to minimise the risk of disruption to operations.

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