There have been no cases of blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Malta and the country will continue administering it ahead of a briefing by the European medicines watchdog on Wednesday.

Health Minister Chris Fearne said Malta's position will only change when the advice from the European Medicines Authority changes. 

The EMA is expected to hold a briefing later on Wednesday about the vaccine after an investigation into its possible links to rare cases of blood clots. 

Fearne said that he would be meeting with other EU health ministers and the EMA to discuss the vaccine ahead of that announcement, but that the advice at this point was to continue administering it.

Fearne said there was no doubt whatsoever that the AstraZeneca vaccine was effective. What was under discussion was the potential of a side effect. But EMA advice was that the benefits outweighed the risks.

Currently there is no proven link between the vaccine and blood clots and experts say any risk is low. But the concerns have seen some countries stop giving the AstraZeneca jab and yesterday a trial in the UK testing it on children was paused.

A senior EMA official was quoted in Italian media on Tuesday as saying that there was a "clear" connection between the AstraZeneca jab and clots, and that the agency would announce it soon.

"In my opinion, we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine," EMA head of vaccine strategy Marco Cavaleri told Italy's Il Messaggero newspaper in an interview. "But we still do not know what causes this reaction."

However the EMA said later on Tuesday it had "not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing".

The watchdog has so far said that the vaccine is safe and effective, and that the benefits of using it to prevent illness and death caused by Covid-19 outweigh the possible risks.

Last week after a meeting of experts the EMA said it had not found any "specific risk factors" such as age, gender or a previous medical history of clotting disorders.

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