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Expert says AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine efficacy is promising

Some are concerned that public confidence in the vaccine may be low due to blood clot scares in Europe and performance issues against certain variants.

HOUSTON — AstraZeneca says its vaccine is 79% effective in preventing symptoms of COVID-19 and it is 100% effective when it comes to hospitalizations. The drugmaker says it plans to file for emergency use authorization with the FDA in April.

RELATED: US data shows AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine effective for all adults

Even though the news is encouraging, some are concerned that public confidence in the vaccine may be low due to blood clot scares in Europe and performance issues against certain variants.

Last month, South Africa stopped the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of low protection against the variant spreading quickly in the country. Then this month, several European countries temporarily paused vaccinations to investigate a handful of cases of blood clots. Health officials there have now resumed shots.

RELATED: AstraZeneca vaccinations resume in Europe after blood clot scare

Dr. Alan Barrett is director of Sealy Institute for Vaccines Sciences at UTMB.

“There is no evidence so far that it is related to receiving the vaccine. It’s just that there are events of thrombosis in the population. If you immunize 17 million people, you’re going to see some of these side effects,” Barrett said.

He says people should have an open mind as the two-dose vaccine gets closer to getting clearance in the U.S.

“I think you’ve got to turn around and say we potentially have four vaccines that will prevent severe COVID-19 disease. That’s really an amazing achievement in essentially a year,” Barrett said.

He says AstraZeneca will likely need to develop another shot for the South African variant. However, that isn’t a unique problem. All the drug companies are already working on their own booster shots to combat variants.