AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine use halted in several EU countries. What do we know so far
- On Friday, Bulgaria became the latest country to suspend inoculations using AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine.
Several European nations have temporarily halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as a precautionary measure after reports of patients developing blood clots emerged. While Denmark, Norway, and Iceland on Thursday suspended the use of all of their AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine supply, some other European states have decided to suspend its use from a particular batch of the vaccine.
Austria suspended the use of an AstraZeneca vaccine batch following the death of a 49-year-old nurse due to “severe blood coagulation problems” days after receiving an anti-Covid jab. Other European nations that suspended the same vaccine batch of one million shots sent to 17 countries include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg.
As of March 9, at least 22 cases of thromboembolic events, marked by the formation of blood clots, has been reported among 3 million people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Friday, Bulgaria became the latest country to suspend inoculations using the AstraZeneca vaccine as the government urged the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to send a written statement dispelling all doubts about the vaccine's safety.
Meanwhile, non-European countries like Australia and Canada have decided to continue with the rollout of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, saying there was no evidence that the vaccine caused adverse effects such as blood clotting.
The European Union’s drugs regulator said in a statement that it was aware of Denmark’s temporary suspension of its vaccination campaign. However, it insisted there is currently no indication that AstraZeneca’s vaccine has caused the conditions, which are not listed as side effects.
The EMA reiterated the position of its safety committee, saying the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the inoculations can continue while the regulator investigates the concerns.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that there was no reason to stop the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. During a briefing in Geneva, WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told reporters that there has been no death “proven to have be caused by vaccination” and the health authorities “should continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
"We must always ensure that we look for any safety signals when we roll out vaccines, and we must review them," she said.
A WHO spokesperson had earlier told Sputnik, Russia’s state-owned news agency, that Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) is “carefully assessing” the reports on risk related to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The spokesperson said that any changes to current recommendations will be immediately communicated to the public as soon as the UN health agency gains a full understanding of the events, reported Sputnik.
"The committee further noted that the vaccine can continue to be administered while the investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing," the spokesperson was quoted by Sputnik as saying.
(With inputs from agencies)