Italy and France resume rollout of AstraZeneca jabs after admitting ban was political as EU ‘sulks’ over Brexit

ITALY and France will "quickly" resume giving out the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine once the European regulator gives the all-clear.

They were among 20 European countries to suspend the use of the jab over blood clot fears – even though regulators say it is safe.

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Italian PM Mario Draghi spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron today – and the two leaders agreed they were ready to begin vaccinating with the Oxford jab again.

They said they are waiting on the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to give the green light on Thursday.

"The preliminary statement today from EMA was positive," a statement from Draghi's office said. 

France and Italy have also admitted their ban on the AstraZeneca vaccine is political – as the EU was accused of "sulking" over Brexit.

It comes amid growing anger across the Continent at the snail-pace vaccine rollout compared to the UK and US.

The EU Commission, which was blamed for bungling purchases, declared war on the Anglo-Swedish drug firm by accusing it of withholding doses.

Today Nicola Magrini, who runs Italian medicines regulator AIFA, said politicians in were pressured to ban the Covid jabs after Germany and France did.

Mr Magrini told La Repubblica: "We got to the point of a suspension because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt vaccinations… to put them on hold in order to carry out checks.

'BREXIT SULK'

"The choice is a political one."

French Europe Minister Clement Beaune admitted the suspension heaped "political pressure" on AstraZeneca amid the ongoing supply dispute.

He told Radio Classique: "There are concerns. And more than that, probably a number of breaches of contract.

“Europe is not going to be some sort of cuddly 'care bear' that hands over its money and expects nothing in return.

“We will defend our interests. There may be legal recourse. We are not ruling it out.”

Mr Beaune also said the EU “must put pressure” on AstraZeneca to force it to deliver more doses to the bloc even as millions lie unused in fridges.

He said: “We are stronger among Europeans than if France did it alone.

"Before any legal recourse, there is political pressure, or even the board of directors, internally in the company.”

The vaccine ban coincided with the EU launching legal action against the UK yesterday over border controls in Northern Ireland.

France, Germany and Italy followed smaller EU nations such as Ireland and Estonia is banning the jab after around 40 patients had blood clots.

AstraZeneca said the rate was actually LOWER than would be expected in the general population.

Today the European Medicines Agency confirmed there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca jab causes blood clots.

Conservative MP Anthony Browne said European leaders had been driven by "politics not science",.

And he claimed the EU's "Brexit sulk" will cost lives.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been blasted in her home country for halting the AstraZeneca vaccine as infections rise "exponentially".

Eugen Brysch of the German Foundation for Patient Protection fumed: "This is how trust is lost.

“Trust is a shy deer. That's the damage. And the damage is very, very great.”

Social Democratic Party co-leader Norbert Walter-Borjans accused Health Minister Jens Spahn of not being "level-headed" by changing his view on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Another SDP politician, Karl Lauterbach, said the decision to drop the AstraZeneca jab was “a mistake”, and that the vaccine could be a “lifesaver” in the third wave now gripping the country.

International scientists including the World Health Organisation also said the evidence shows no higher risk after having the jab.

The European Medicines Agency gave an update on its analysis of blood clotting cases today, ahead of formal conclusions on Thursday.

EMA executive director Emer Cooke said the cases of blood clots in recently vaccinated people was still being analysed "tirelessly" by a range of experts.

She added: "At present there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions.

"We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19 with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death outweigh the risk of these side effects."

The WHO urged nations to continue using the life-saving jab because there is no evidence it was behind fatal blood clotting conditions.

Chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said on Monday: “We do not want people to panic”

"We would, for the time being, recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca."

But the assurances have fallen on deaf ears, as Sweden and Latvia were the latest to suspend use of the jab today as a "precautionary measure".

It means 7.8million doses of the life-saving Oxford-AstraZeneca jab are now sitting on the shelf despite much of Europe being on the cusp of a devastating third Covid wave.

Some of EU states are is set to turn to vaccines produced by Russia and China instead.

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