After weighing guidance, Costa Rica to use AstraZeneca vaccine

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Workers load a container holding doses of the AstraZeneca's vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that arrived under the COVAX scheme, in Alajuela, on the outskirts of San Jose

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Costa Rica will use AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine after assessing guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on the risks of possible side-effects, the health ministry said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, European and British medicine regulators said they had found possible links between the vaccine and extremely rare cases of brain blood clots, while emphatically reaffirming its importance in mass vaccination against COVID-19.

Costa Rican authorities will begin distributing 43,000 doses of the vaccine which arrived on Wednesday, the first delivery under an agreement for a million vaccines with the COVAX mechanism of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Costa Rica intends to vaccinate 70% of its population via the COVAX contract, along with direct purchases of 1 million AstraZeneca doses and 4 million from U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.

Health authorities will administer the AstraZeneca vaccine in two shots, with 12 weeks between the first and the second. The public will know which brand of vaccine they will receive, but will not get to choose it, said Roberto Arroba, a senior health ministry official.

(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Editing by Karishma Singh)