AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant, has announced the global withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, following months of controversy surrounding its safety profile.

The decision comes amid concerns over very rare, but life-threatening, side effects associated with the vaccine.

The withdrawal of Vaxzevria extends beyond the European Union (EU), where the company had already discontinued marketing authorization for the vaccine since 2021. The move follows a decline in demand for the vaccine due to the availability of multiple updated vaccines targeting new variants of the coronavirus.

AstraZeneca submitted its application to withdraw the vaccine from the EU on March 5, with the withdrawal becoming effective on May 7. According to the company, the surplus availability of alternative COVID-19 vaccines contributed to the decrease in demand for Vaxzevria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied.

The decision comes after AstraZeneca faced legal challenges in the UK, including a class-action lawsuit alleging that the vaccine had caused deaths and severe injuries. The lawsuit sought damages of up to £100 million on behalf of approximately 50 victims.

Recent revelations from AstraZeneca acknowledge the potential for very rare side effects associated with the vaccine, including thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). This condition, characterized by blood clots and low blood platelet counts, raised significant concerns about the safety of the vaccine.

In court documents filed in February, AstraZeneca admitted the association between its vaccine and TTS, although the causal mechanism remains unclear. The acknowledgment came amidst growing scrutiny and legal challenges surrounding the safety profile of the vaccine.