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Photo: Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded Wednesday that "unusual blood clots with low blood platelets" should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, but that the benefits of the shot still outweigh the risks.

Why it matters: The AstraZeneca vaccine is the centerpiece of the global COVAX initiative, and one of the very few vaccines that is available, affordable and easy to store for many developing countries.

  • The concerns about AstraZeneca in Europe have already spread to countries in Africa, some of which have delayed their rollouts and warned of increased vaccine hesitancy.
  • The vaccine has been administered to over 20 million people in Europe and has played a key role in Britain's world-leading vaccine rollout.

U.K. health officials said at their own press briefing Wednesday that due to the rare cases of blood clots, Britons under the age of 30 will be offered alternative vaccines to AstraZeneca when possible.

What they're saying: "EMA is reminding healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within 2 weeks of vaccination," the agency said in a statement.

  • Most of the cases reported so far have occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination, according to the EMA. Specific risk factors are unconfirmed.
  • The blood clots occurred in veins in the brain and the abdomen, the EMA reports, and people who develop symptoms of this combination of blood clots and low blood platelets should seek immediate medical assistance.

The bottom line: The regulator still concluded that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks and that it is effective at preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations and death.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Go deeper

Apr 7, 2021 - Health

Vaccine shopping can be surprisingly easy

Expand chart
Reproduced from KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor; Chart: Axios Visuals

Many coronavirus vaccination sites are making it easy for people to shop for the vaccine they want.

Why it matters: Public health officials have advised for months that the best vaccine to get is the one that's first available. But giving people a choice about which shot to get could help improve overall vaccination rates, especially among more hesitant Americans.

Kids' illnesses trailed weeks behind COVID peaks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Outbreaks of the respiratory infection known as MIS-C, which affects children who have contracted COVID-19, trailed a few weeks behind the coronavirus, ultimately following its path from cities out into more rural areas, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Why it matters: Although children are at a very low risk for severe COVID-19 infections, the lingering effects of MIS-C can be more serious.

Apr 6, 2021 - Health

California to fully reopen economy June 15 if COVID rates remain stable

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California will aim to fully reopen its economy on June 15 if COVID-19 hospitalizations remain low and vaccine supplies adequately cover people ages 16 and older, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: More people have died of the coronavirus in California than in any other state. Newsom has faced a growing recall effort in recent months as Californians have called on him to lift heavy-handed restrictions on businesses.