AstraZeneca withdraws COVID-19 vaccine worldwide, cites commercial reasons


AstraZeneca has initiated a global withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine, days after it was reported that the British pharmaceutical company admitted that the jab can cause rare side effects. The vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, was produced by the Serum Institute of India as Covishield.

The vaccine maker has said the worldwide withdrawal was initiated because of commercial reasons due to a “surplus of available updated vaccines” for COVID-19, The Telegraph reported. The vaccine was superseded by updated vaccines that tackle new variants, AstraZeneca said.

The company voluntarily withdrew its “marketing authorisation” in the European Union, adding that the vaccine was no longer being produced and could no longer be used. Similar withdrawals will be made across other countries that have been using the vaccine.

The pharmaceutical giant is facing a 100 million pound lawsuit in UK over claims that the Covid jab caused deaths and injuries to several people. AstraZeneca admitted in one of the court documents in February that Covishield can “in very rare cases, cause TTS or Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome”.

TTS causes blood clots and a low blood platelet count in humans and has been linked to at least 81 deaths in the UK. However, the vaccine maker has denied that the decision to withdraw Covishield is linked to the court case.

“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. Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed, there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic,” AstraZeneca said in a statement.

Experts expect all “monovalent” vaccines, that deal with the original Covid strain, to be withdrawn and replaced with updated vaccines that deal with a wide range of strains.

(Inputs from agencies)