Vial labelled “AstraZeneca coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine” placed on displayed EU flag is seen in this illustration picture taken on March 24, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

A top official at the European Medicines Agency says there is a causal link between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and rare blood clots, but that the connection is unclear and the benefits of taking the shot outweigh the risks of getting COVID-19.

Marco Cavaleri, head of health threats and vaccine strategy at the Amsterdam-based agency, told Rome’s Il Messaggero Newspaper on Tuesday that the European Union’s medicines regulator is preparing to make a more definitive statement on the topic this week.

Asked about Cavaleri’s comments, the EMA press office said its evaluation “has not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing”. It said it planned a News conference as soon as the review is finalized, possibly on late Wednesday.

Based on the evidence, Cavaleri said there’s a clear association between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the dozens of rare blood clots that have been reported worldwide amid the tens of millions of AstraZeneca shots that have been given out.

“It is becoming more and more difficult to affirm that there isn’t a cause-and-effect relationship between AstraZeneca vaccines and the very rare cases of blood clots associated with a low level of platelets,” Cavaleri was quoted as saying.

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Late in the day, however, the pharmaceutical company and Oxford University, which developed the vaccine, announced they were pausing a trial of their jabs in children.

Elsewhere in the region, Britain was on Wednesday beginning the use of a vaccine from Moderna in Wales just as its rollout of other shots has fallen to its lowest level this year due to a supply crunch caused by manufacturing problems at an AstraZeneca facility.

Britain has surged ahead of the rest of Europe in the race to vaccinate its population, with almost half of its citizens receiving a first dose.

Earlier deadline

In the United States, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he is moving up his deadline for all adults to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to April 19, two weeks earlier than the May 1 deadline announced earlier.

“Everyone is going to be able to do this before the month is out,” Biden said while touring a pop-up vaccination site at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

The administration is also sending a message to seniors-who are one of the most vulnerable groups-to get their shots now if they haven’t because lines are about to become longer. More than 75 percent of people over the age of 65 have gotten a shot, and 55 percent of them are fully vaccinated.

Agencies and

Minlu Zhang

in New York contributed to this story.