AstraZeneca Withdraws Covid-19 Vaccine Globally, Claiming an Excess of newer vaccinations

Pharmaceutical company says newer shots led to decline in demand for AstraZeneca vaccine, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied

AstraZeneca has launched a global withdrawal of its Covid-19 vaccine due to a “surplus of available updated vaccines” targeting new virus strains.

The announcement comes after the pharmaceutical business voluntarily withdrew its European Union marketing authorisation in March, which allows it to market a treatment in member states.

On May 7, the European Medicines Agency issued a warning that the vaccination was no longer approved for use.

In a statement, AstraZeneca stated that the decision was made because a number of other vaccines had been developed to target Covid-19 variations. This has resulted in a decrease in demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is no longer manufactured or provided.

“According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over 3bn doses were supplied globally,” claimed the statement.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments all over the world, and they are largely regarded as a vital component in bringing the global pandemic to a stop. We will now collaborate with regulators and partners to agree on a clear route forward to close this chapter and make a major contribution to the Covid-19 epidemic.”

Other countries have already ceased providing the vaccine. It has not been accessible for use in Australia since March 2023, however its use had already been tapered down beginning in June 2021 due to the widespread availability of newer vaccines.

AstraZeneca renamed its Covid vaccination Vaxzevria in 2021. The vaccine was approved for use in people aged 18 and up, and it was administered as two injections, usually into the upper arm muscle three months apart. Some countries utilised it as a booster shot.

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Vaxzevria is a modified adenovirus that has the gene for producing a protein from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The vaccine does not contain the virus and so cannot cause it.

Although the vaccination was shown to be generally safe and effective, it posed the danger of an uncommon but serious adverse effect known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, or TTS. The unusual illness occurred in approximately two to three people per 100,000 who received the Vaxzevria vaccination.

Prof Catherine Bennett, head of epidemiology at Deakin University in Australia, said the vaccine played a critical role in the global fight against the virus, especially in the early days of the epidemic when vaccines were scarce.

“It has saved millions of lives and that should not be forgotten,” she stated.

“It was an extremely significant component of the initial worldwide response. However, it focused on the first ancestral varieties. We’ve now reached a point in the vaccine chain where we have products available to combat developing variations.

“There’s also a shift in the risk calculus as well, given populations are much more protected and, even though of course Covid still causes deaths, we are overall less vulnerable to the disease.”

The World Health Organization’s most recent Covid-19 vaccination guidance, given in April, recommended that formulations of Covid-19 vaccines target the JN.1 lineage of the virus, which is displacing current XBB lineage variations.

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