UK -AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, has announced the withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine worldwide amid rare blood clot concerns.

The decision comes amidst declining demand for the vaccine and the emergence of newer alternatives better equipped to tackle evolving virus variants.

Since its approval in December 2020, AstraZeneca’s vaccine, developed in collaboration with Oxford University, has been widely distributed, with over three billion doses administered globally. 

However, in recent years, demand has waned significantly, prompting the company to cease manufacturing and supplying the vaccine.

The withdrawal is not related to concerns over the vaccine’s safety or efficacy, clarified the pharmaceutical giant. 

Instead, it reflects a strategic response to changing market dynamics and the availability of updated vaccines tailored to combat newer variants of the virus.

According to AstraZeneca, the decision to pull the vaccine from the market was made months ago, with the process of withdrawing licenses to market the vaccine already underway. 

The European Commission approved the withdrawal in March, marking the official cessation of the vaccine’s distribution in European countries.

Dr. Sheena Cruickshank, an immunologist at the University of Manchester, explained that AstraZeneca’s vaccine lacked adaptability to address the evolving nature of the virus due to its underlying technology. 

Unlike some competitors, AstraZeneca did not update its vaccine to target emerging variants, limiting its relevance in the current landscape.

“While the truth is it made an enormous difference, it was what lifted us out of the catastrophe that was unfolding at the time, combined with the other vaccine from Pfizer, said Prof Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol.

Concerns regarding rare but serious side effects, particularly the risk of blood clotting disorders, contributed to the decline in demand for the vaccine. 

The company updated its product information in April 2021 to include warnings about these potential side effects.

“It is admitted that the AZ vaccine can, in very rare cases, cause TTS. The causal mechanism is not known,” AstraZeneca said in court documents in February.

Despite these challenges, AstraZeneca emphasized its pride in the vaccine’s contribution to the global fight against the pandemic. 

Kim Blomley, a spokesperson for the company, underscored its critical role in saving lives and recognized its recognition by governments worldwide.

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