AstraZeneca Vaccine's Promise Now Drawn Into Question
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Hailed as a cheap, easy-to-store not-for-profit vaccine, the AstraZeneca shot has suffered a growing number of setbacks. In the latest, around a dozen countries have suspended its use as a precaution after blood clots suffered by some of those vaccinated.

- 'Accidentally' great

The British laboratory made headlines in November when it claimed its jab could match the effectiveness of the rival Pfizer/BioNTech jab. It later emerged that these results were obtained by accident when a half dose was given by mistake. On average, trials showed it to be about 60 percent effective, though in real world conditions it has so far performed much better.

- Supply shortages

The Anglo-Swedish drug company was accused of bad faith by European leaders in January. The stand-off prompted the EU to slap export controls on vaccines and send inspectors into a plant in Belgium. AstraZeneca would only be able to deliver one third of the promised 120 million vaccines.

- Governments' mixed messages

When the EU experts finally approved the shot, health officials in a number of states including France and Germany refused to authorise it for over 65s. Faced with vaccine shortages, both countries as well as Italy later made it available to some older people with serious health risks. By then the bloc was facing rising scepticism about the shot, with Angela Merkel forced to praise it with doctors only giving a fifth of doses that had been delivered to Germany.

- S.Africa sends back doses

While AstraZeneca and many scientists said the jab had been the victim of unfair coverage, the bad news just kept coming. South Africa asked to send back one million doses after scientists found it gave "minimal protection" against mild and moderate cases of the country's more contagious virus strain.

- Not a charity

The vaccine won plaudits initially for its non-profit stance, but last March Oxford University, which developed it, backed off its pledge to donate the rights to any drugmaker. AstraZeneca said it would provide doses on a cost basis for as long as the pandemic lasts. But it was later accused of reneging on this when it emerged that it could up the price as early as July.

- Blood clot worries

The latest problem emerged last week when a growing number of countries started following Denmark in suspending their campaigns after a reported link with blood clots. European Medicines Agency, which is the EU's drugs regulator, said severe allergies should be added to its side effects warning.

The director of the Oxford Vaccine Group said there was no link between the jab and blood clotting, and the World Health Organization has so far insisted there is no reason to stop using it, describing it as an "excellent vaccine".