Why AstraZeneca’s Withdrawal of COVID Vaccine Should Not Be Politicised

The Quint spoke to Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, who said that the withdrawal is related to lesser demand of the vaccine.

4 min read

While speaking to the media recently, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav targeted AstraZeneca's move to withdraw its vaccine for COVID-19.

"The vaccine company is saying that it will withdraw its vaccine. You tell me, how will you extract the vaccine from those who have already taken them. And the photo disappeared. Why did the photo disappear? If the vaccine was fine, why did they remove their photo?"
Akhilesh Yadav, former UP CM

Yadav then proceeded to hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its "double-engine government" phrase. His 42-seconds-long speech could be heard on the official X (formerly Twitter) handle of Samajwadi Party.

Along with this, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Congress party's Rajasthan's vice-president Vinita Jain, too, claimed that the vaccine was withdrawn following the revelation of "dangerous side-effects".

  • An archive of the post can be found here.

    (Source: X/ Screenshot)


What's the background?: As per recent reports, AstraZeneca has withdrawn its COVID vaccine named Vaxzevria.

  • The company had voluntarily withdrawn its authorisation from the European Union.

  • AstraZeneca marketed the vaccine in India as 'Covishield', which was produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII).

  • This move by AstraZeneca has sparked controversies on social media platforms, with several people furthering narratives about the vaccine carrying previously undisclosed side-effects.

Were these side-effects recently revealed?: Several media organisations recently claimed that AstraZeneca accepted for the "first time" that its COVID vaccine contained some side-effects such as causing Thrombosis Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) in very rare cases.

  • However, Team WebQoof found that the information about side effects of the vaccine were not new.

  • The packaging insert, which was released in 2021, had included all the risks of the vaccine, which clearly mentioned about the risk of TTS is very rare.

  • Watch our video below to find out more details.

A timeline of events: Here is the breakdown of events that will help you to understand that AstraZeneca had already filed an application to withdraw the vaccine in European Commission in March of this year. This was before reports started circulating about the company accepting side effects for the "first time."

  • October 2021: Vaccine's packaging insert mentions rare possible side effects.

  • March 2024: AstraZeneca files application to withdraw vaccine.

  • April 2024: Controversy erupts over rare side effects after misreporting by multiple media organisations (the side effects were known since 2021 and were admitted in court in February 2024).

  • May 2024: AstraZeneca withdraws its vaccine.

Application in European Commission: On the official website of European Commission, we found the timeline of the AstraZeneca vaccine from January 2021 to April 2024. The latest update showed that the vaccine has been withdrawn as of 27 March 2024.

The Quint spoke to Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, who said that the withdrawal is related to lesser demand of the vaccine.

The latest update said that the vaccine has been withdrawn.

(Source: European Commission/Screenshot)

The document available next to the update mentioned that the withdrawal application was officially submitted to the Commission on 5 March.

  • It further said that the "marketing authorisation" for the Vaxzevria -COVID-19 vaccine has been withdrawn at the holder's request.

  • The withdrawal was to be put in effect from 7 May.

The Quint spoke to Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, who said that the withdrawal is related to lesser demand of the vaccine.

The decision was taken on 27 March.

(Source: European Commission/Screenshot)

What did the company say about the withdrawal?: Responding to The Quint's query on mail, AstraZeneca confirmed that the withdrawal was unrelated to the vaccine's safety or the litigation in the United Kingdom.

“We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic. According to independent estimates, over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone and over three billion doses were supplied globally."

The company further highlighted that multiple COVID-19 vaccines have been developed which has led to a surplus of available updated vaccines. Due to this, the demand for Vaxzervria has declined and is no longer being manufactured or supplied.

What do experts say?: We spoke to senior physician and vaccine expert, Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, who refuted the viral claim. He said, "Right now there is no demand for the vaccine. There is no recommendation for additional shot beyond third dose in most of the countries. And third, there is no public demand."

  • Dr Lahariya said that the withdrawal is related to the lesser demand of the vaccine rather than the side-effects.

  • He then explained that AstraZeneca's vaccine "are termed as first-generated vaccine."

  • Dr Lahariya said that since then, the virus has evolved and the effectiveness of these vaccines have gone down with the emergence of new variants.

The doctor further said that mRNA vaccines can be easily tweaked, however, viral vector-based vaccines (like AstraZeneca's vaccine) cannot be updated or tweaked.

Editor's Note: While mudslinging ahead of elections are common practice, the politicisation of life-saving vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccine could cause unnecessary panic among members of the public and reduce trust in future drugs.

Conclusion: The claim about AstraZeneca withdrawing its COVID-19 vaccine after admitting side effects is false and misses proper context.

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