Claim: AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine withdrawn worldwide due to dangerous side effect

Source: Viral social media posts


Researched by Gifty Tracy Aminu

Some online news platforms have published articles claiming the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is being withdrawn worldwide after the manufacturers found that the vaccine causes rare side effects, and this is causing panic among Ghanaians online (here, here and here).

“On Tuesday, AstraZeneca announced a worldwide recall of their COVID-19 vaccine due to an admission that it can lead to rare side effects,” the verified X/Twitter account of GHOne TV posted online.

Screenshots of Tweets by the X/Twitter account of GHOne TV

Also, a now-deleted article on Citinewsroom was captioned on the microblogging app (X/Twitter) as “AstraZeneca begins global recall of vaccines due to ‘rare’ side effect discovery.”

A screenshot of a Tweet by the X/Twitter account of Citi FM (L)

A screenshot of a post on X by 3News/ TV3

What are the facts?

Following a decline in demand for the AstraZeneca/ Vaxzevria vaccine due to the availability of other updated vaccines that target new variants of the virus, the Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has said it’s removing its Covid-19 vaccine worldwide.

This has informed the company’s decision to voluntarily withdraw its European Union marketing authorisation, the seal of approval needed to market a medicine in member states.

“The marketing authorisation for Vaxzevria (SRD) has been withdrawn at the request of the marketing-authorisation holder,” the European Medicine Agency (EMA) stated on its website.

The Ghana Health Service as part of efforts to address the emerging concerns has clarified that the withdrawal of the vaccine was for commercial reasons and not due to safety issues.

“Their vaccine was made against the original COVID-19 virus. Since that time, there have been several variants and other manufacturers have targeted multiple variants…They won’t get profit so on a commercial basis, they said they are withdrawing,” the Programmes Manager at the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) at the Ghana Health Service, Kwame Amponsa-Achiano told GhanaFact.

The announced withdrawal of the Vaxzevria COVID-19 vaccine indeed has nothing to do with claims that the vaccine causes a rare and dangerous side effect.

A scientific assessment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at the height of the pandemic concluded that the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects – this is after EMA’s safety committee said unusual blood clots with low blood platelets be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria.

Meanwhile, in a legal document following a lawsuit against AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom, the company said that its Covid vaccine “can, in very rare cases, cause TTS”.

“For this side effect (TTS), for every 10 million people you vaccinate, you’ll get 66. That same TTS, if you have COVID your odds of getting the TTS are 200 times higher than from the vaccine,” a Health Policy and Systems Researcher, Nana Kofi Quakyi explained.

According to the WHO, the AstraZeneca vaccine has an efficacy of 72% against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, as shown by the primary analysis of data irrespective of interdose interval from trial participants who received 2 standard doses with an interval varying from about 4 to 12 weeks.

“This came up in 2021 and it was reviewed by the World Health Organisation, the European Medicine Agency and the UK regulators, and agreed that there are rare side effects which were discussed extensively that the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the risk and that there were no safety issues and so we continued using it. It’s not a new thing.” Dr Achiano reiterated.

The emerging failures in the news coverage of the subject, according to Nana Kofi Quakyi is undermining Ghana’s public health systems and efforts to promote equitable healthcare delivery.

“On one front you have a broader system problem of this being kind of recurring thing in health journalism where preconceived notions or prejudices are directly stepping into actual reportage… In this case, I think it is terrible malpractice because in some cases not only did they do this kind of misrepresentation of the connection between the withdrawal and the rationale. Citi for example made an actual mistake and said that what happened was a recall which is not factual. Totally not true,” he said.

The Ghana Health Service has begun a five-day nationwide COVID-19 vaccination exercise between May 5 and May 9, 2024 as part of measures to attain herd immunity against the virus.


Therefore, the claim is misleading