VERA FILES FACT CHECK: OLD report on halt of AstraZeneca vaccine use circulates despite the lifting of suspension

A Facebook post revived a months-old local news report about the 79 cases of rare blood clots from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine of AstraZeneca, which caused a few European countries to halt the use of the brand on people under 30 years old. This is misleading.

The original GMA report was aired on April 8, but was reposted on July 17 by an FB user. It continues to circulate despite the fact that the suspension of the vaccine had been lifted.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), in an April 7 report, said that these “unusual blood clots with low blood platelets” are “very rare side effects” from the vaccine. Furthermore, the use of AstraZeneca for people below 30 in most of those countries has resumed.

Out of the 79 cases, 19 people have died, and 11 out of the 19 people who died were under the age of 50, three of whom were under 30, according to the UK government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

The World Health Organization, in an April 16 statement, said that data from the UK “suggest the risk is approximately four cases per million adults who receive the vaccine, while the rate is estimated to be approximately 1 per 100,000 in the European Union.”

The European countries cited in the video — the Netherlands, France, Spain and Germany — temporarily halted the use of the vaccine for those aged 30 and below. But except for the Netherlands, the countries have resumed use of AstraZeneca for people below 30.

The video also mentioned South Korea as one of the nations that suspended using Astrazeneca, but the country resumed its use on April 11 for people aged 30 and above.

In the Philippines, the use of the vaccine brand resumed on May 7 after it was temporarily suspended on April 8 due to reports of blood clots.

On a June 18 press briefing, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said that a little over 98% had normal side effects, such as chills, headache, fatigue and fever while less than 2% showed adverse effects, although there were still no reports of blood clots linked to the vaccine in the country.

“This is a very rare event, and dito po sa atin, di pa nangyayari (here in the Philippines, it has not happened),” Vergeire said.

VERA Files Fact Check has tracked a similar item which reported the temporary suspension of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, even though the suspension had already been lifted in early May (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB posts MISLEAD; AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine no longer suspended in PH).

The misleading video emerged on the same day the Philippines recorded 1.5 million cases of COVID-19. The number of cases breached the 1.6 million mark in the beginning of August.

The video obtained over 50,000 shares and 783,000 views.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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