BRITAIN last night declared the Oxford jab safe — as panicking EU countries needlessly banned it.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted the vaccine — already given to over 11million in the UK — was both safe and effective.
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And he said he could see no reason at all to stop the immunisation blitz that has successfully turned the UK’s pandemic tide.
Fourteen EU states — including France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands — have paused roll-out as a precaution after unsubstantiated fears the jab might trigger blood clots.
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.
And some of the EU is set to turn to vaccines produced by Russia and China instead.
Risk expert Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter warned banning the Oxford vaccine would inevitably cost lives.
The leading Cambridge University scientist said: “I think these pauses, I don’t think you can consider these as being cautious. They actually could be doing more harm than good.”
Both British and EU medical regulators and the World Health Organisation slapped down fears, saying there was no evidence the jab was unsafe.
Dr Phil Bryan, Vaccines Safety Lead from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said: “The evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause.
“Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon.
“More than 11million doses of the AZ vaccine have now been administered across the UK and the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine is not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally.”
Experts said about 3,000 people a month suffered blood clots in Britain anyway.
UK monitoring has found no evidence the Oxford shot raises risk, with rates similar found in recipients of the Pfizer jab.
About 30 blood clots were reported by 9.7million people given Oxford doses by late February.
In comparison, the figure was 38 cases among the first 10.7million Pfizer vaccines.
Asked whether he could reassure the public the Oxford jab was safe, Mr Johnson did not hesitate saying: “Yes, I can. We have one of the toughest and most experienced regulators in the world.
“They see no reason at all to discontinue the vaccination programme for either of the vaccines we’re currently using.”
His comments came as Europe’s bungled vaccine drive saw more than a dozen nations suspending use of the Oxford jab — with Covid infections spiking, patients in Paris flown to less busy hospitals and Venice back in lockdown.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain joined the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Estonia in stopping the roll-out.
The European Medicines Agency said there was no evidence for the fears and said the “benefits outweighed the risk” ahead of a review today.
Last night, a senior Whitehall source said: “You expect this disinformation from Russia and China, not our European allies.”
The move throws the continent’s plans to end lockdowns into serious doubt — dampening Britons’ holiday hopes.
Europe is facing a growing Covid crisis again, with new infections across the bloc now running at an average rate of 329 cases per 100,000 people, compared with just 59 in the UK.
Britain has given 24.5million first doses, with half of all adults expected to be immunised by the end of the week.
The entire EU has managed only 49.2million, just 11 per cent of its population.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland chief medical officer Michael McBride rolled up his sleeve for his first dose of the AstraZeneca jab yesterday.
But there is anger across the continent at AstraZeneca’s “broken promises” on deliveries.
One diplomat said the company was finished as a major European supplier.
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