AstraZeneca changes the name of its coronavirus vaccine after wave of blood clot deaths
04/01/2021 // Nolan Barton // Views

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca changed the name of its Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine following a string of controversies about its efficacy and several deaths. The vaccine developed by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company in cooperation with Oxford University is now called Vaxzevria. It was previously known simply as the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The portal of the Swedish National Medicines Agency confirmed that the name change was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on March 25 following a request from the company. It also noted that the name change is not associated with any other change in the vaccine.

No official reason has been given for the name change.

Controversies hound AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine has made headlines several times for all the wrong reasons since it received the green light from the EMA in late January. Right after its approval, various countries in Europe decided to not use it for the elderly and chose to wait for more data.

Earlier this month, more than a dozen European countries temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine after cases of blood clots and low platelet counts emerged. (Related: Researchers confirm antibodies from the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine cause blood clots.)

The company had also been accused of withholding data to make the vaccine seem more effective than it actually was in human trials done in the U.S., Chile and Peru.

In response, the company has done its best to fight the controversies.


The company rectified its efficacy data while actually showing a higher efficacy rate at blocking symptoms in people over 65 years old. The latest data showed 85 percent efficacy, five points higher than the figure reported in March 22.

At the same time, the EMA's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) concluded that the vaccine is not associated with an increased risk of thromboembolic events and that its benefits still outweigh its risks.

But AstraZeneca has still found itself in the middle of another controversy as the European Commission announced tighter new controls on the export of vaccines produced within the European Union.

With the new measures in place, vaccines for export must now be issued with an export certificate by the land of production. The granting of a certificate will be based on two principles: reciprocity and proportionality. This means a member state will not issue a license to export to a country that does not deliver vaccines to the EU, to a country that has a better epidemiological situation than the EU as a whole or to a country that already has a higher vaccination rate.

"The EU is proud to be home to vaccine manufacturers who not only supply EU citizens, but export vaccines around the world. But open roads must go both ways," said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

AstraZeneca fails to meet delivery schedule to EU

The new vaccine export controllers were triggered by the ongoing row over AstraZeneca vaccines intended for the United Kingdom. Part of the production of the vaccine takes place inside the EU. At the same time, the company has failed to meet its delivery schedule to the EU in the first quarter and is likely to fail again in the second quarter.

The Commission has made it clear that it thinks the company is favoring the UK at the expense of other contracts. It has threatened to stop all exports of vaccines produced in the bloc until its own delivery requirements are satisfied.

The new measure applies to all pharmaceutical companies that produce coronavirus vaccines within the bloc. Pfizer produces vaccines in Puurs in Belgium and has delivered 10 million doses to the UK in the past several weeks. Pfizer has fully delivered in its contracts with the EU, but will still need to get an export certificate next time.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the EU could be the "loser" if it chose to block exports to the UK and other countries.

"I don't think that blockades of either vaccines or medicines or ingredients for vaccines are sensible and I think that the long-term damage done by blockades can be very big," he told the Commons liaison committee after the EU announcement.

"I would just gently push anybody considering a blockade or interruption of supply chains that companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where arbitrary blockades are imposed."

Follow for more news and information related to the coronavirus vaccines.

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