AstraZeneca to withdraw its COVID-19 vaccine globally as demand dips, rare side effects revealed

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The pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said on Tuesday it is withdrawing its COVID-19 vaccine worldwide citing low demand and a “surplus of available updated vaccines” since the pandemic.

The vaccine — called Vaxzevria – was one of a number of shots released onto the market by pharmaceutical companies aimed at preventing people from catching COVID-19. 

The company said it would proceed to withdraw Vaxzevria’s marketing authorizations within Europe. The vaccine was never approved in the U.S. by the FDA.

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“As multiple, variant COVID-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines,” the company said, adding that this had led to a decline in demand for Vaxzevria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied.

AstraZeneca said that more than 3 billion doses were supplied globally and that “over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone.”

“Our efforts have been recognized by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic,” the statement said, according to The Guardian. “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.”

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Astrazenca building exterior

According to the Telegraph, AstraZeneca admitted for the first time in court documents that its COVID vaccine can cause rare side effects such as blood clots and low blood platelet counts. The admission came through via a UK class action lawsuit that sought $125 million for almost 50 victims of AstraZeneca vaccine side effects.

The European Medicines Agency listed Guillain-Barré syndrome as a very rare side effect of Vaxzevria in 2021 and added a warning in the product information.

The firm’s application to withdraw the vaccine was made on March 5 and came into effect on May 7, according to the Telegraph, which first reported the development.

Many countries had already stopped supplying the vaccine before Tuesday’s announcement. It has not been available for use in Australia since March 2023, though its use was already being phased out from June 2021 due to the widespread availability of newer vaccines, according to the Guardian. 

London-listed AstraZeneca began moving into respiratory syncytial virus vaccines and obesity drugs through several deals last year after a slowdown in growth as COVID-19 medicine sales declined.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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