AstraZeneca withdraws COVID-19 vaccine globally after reportedly admitting side-effects

AstraZeneca has announced the global withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine, which the pharmaceutical company is attributing to a dip in demand.

It comes after the drugmaker reportedly made an admission about reactions to the immunisation. 

The company had previously admitted in court documents the vaccine causes rare and dangerous side-effects, including blood clots and low blood platelet counts, multiple world media outlets reported

However, the company is attributing the worldwide withdrawal to a "surplus of available updated vaccines" since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"As multiple, variant COVID-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines," the company said, according to Reuters

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker's application to withdraw the vaccine was made on March 5 and came into effect on May 7. The company will also proceed to withdraw marketing authorisations within Europe for the vaccine, which goes by the brand name Vaxzevria. 

Te Whatu Ora/Health New Zealand told Newshub the vaccine was phased out in New Zealand on September 4, 2022.

About 9000 doses were administered to people in Aotearoa.

Chris James, the group manager of New Zealand medicines regulator Medsafe, said AstraZeneca changed the status of Vaxzevria in Aotearoa to "not available" in March 2023. 

"At that time, they confirmed that product was last distributed in New Zealand in April 2022. Some product may have been in the distribution chain briefly following April 2022," he told Newshub. "Medsafe granted provisional approval for Vaxzevria from July 29, 2021, and renewed the provisional consent on April 28, 2022.  

"Medsafe did not withdraw the provisional approval. However, the provisional consent expired on 29 April 2024." 

James said AstraZeneca did not apply to renew the consent at that stage and the approval has since lapsed. 

"There were 329 reports of suspected adverse reactions, with 1868 reactions in those 329 reports," he said of the AstraZenaca vaccine in New Zealand. 

More information about the reactions is publicly available on Medsafe's website.