The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is being pulled from circulation worldwide, marking a significant development months after the pharmaceutical giant conceded, for the first time, in legal documents, that it could induce a rare and hazardous side effect.

The vaccine’s use in the European Union has ceased as AstraZeneca voluntarily withdrew its “marketing authorization.” This decision, initiated on March 5th, came into effect on Tuesday, signifying the discontinuation of its distribution within the region. Similar withdrawal applications are anticipated in the UK and other nations that greenlit the vaccine, known as Vaxzevria.

The decision to halt distribution marks the end of an era for the vaccine, previously hailed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a triumph for British science and credited with saving over six million lives.

AstraZeneca has attributed the vaccine’s removal from markets to commercial reasons. It clarified that the vaccine is no longer in production or supply, having been supplanted by updated versions designed to combat new variants of the virus.

Vaxzevria has come under intense scrutiny due to a very rare side effect linked to blood clots and low blood platelet counts. AstraZeneca acknowledged this condition, known as Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), in court documents filed with the High Court in February. TTS has been associated with at least 81 deaths in the UK and numerous serious injuries, prompting legal action against AstraZeneca by more than 50 individuals and bereaved relatives.

Despite the acknowledgment of TTS and ongoing legal battles, AstraZeneca has denied any connection between the vaccine’s withdrawal and the court case or the admission of its association with TTS. It emphasized that the timing of the decision is coincidental.

In a statement, the company expressed pride in the role Vaxzevria played in combating the pandemic, citing estimates of over 6.5 million lives saved and the distribution of three billion doses globally. With an oversupply of updated vaccines available, AstraZeneca indicated a decline in demand for Vaxzevria, prompting the withdrawal of marketing authorizations within Europe.

Plans to withdraw marketing authorizations extend to other countries, including the UK, where regulatory approval was granted. However, AstraZeneca never secured approval for the vaccine’s use in the US.

While the UK largely phased out the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by autumn 2021, having administered approximately 50 million doses, it transitioned to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the winter booster campaign.

The decision to withdraw the vaccine’s marketing authorization aligns with expectations that obsolete and updated vaccines will be phased out, as per regulatory indications.

Despite this regulatory step, individuals affected by adverse reactions remain without adequate compensation. Legal representatives for claimants assert the withdrawal decision is linked to AstraZeneca’s admission regarding TTS and ongoing concerns about the vaccine’s safety. They vow to continue advocating for fair compensation and reforms to the vaccine damage payment scheme, highlighting the inadequacies of the current system.

In summary, the global withdrawal of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine underscores the evolving landscape of vaccine distribution and regulatory oversight, amidst ongoing debates surrounding safety and compensation for adverse reactions.