Three countries including Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, tentatively suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine. This was the aftermath of health complications reported in patients developing post-jab blood clots. The manufacturer and Europe’s medicines have earlier declared the vaccine as safe to use.
“Following reports of serious cases of blood clots” among people who had received the vaccine, Denmark was first to announce its suspension, the country’s Health Authority announced in a statement.
It emphasized that the move was precautionary, and that “it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots”.
Among the three million-plus people vaccinated in the European Economic Area, 22 cases of blood clots were published till March 9, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said
Earlier, Austria declared on Monday that it had suspended the usage of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a 49-year-old nurse died of “severe blood coagulation problems” days after receiving an anti-Covid shot.
Four other European countries — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Luxemburg — have also discontinued the use of vaccines from this batch, which was sent to 17 European countries.
However, Denmark has suspended the use of all of its AstraZeneca stock and was subsequently followed b Iceland and Norway in announcements on Thursday citing similar concerns.
On Wednesday, the EMA said preliminary scrutiny showed that the batch of AstraZeneca vaccines used in Austria was likely not to blame for the nurse’s death.
– ‘Super-cautious’ –
“This is a super-cautious approach based on some isolated reports in Europe,” said Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“The risk and benefit balance is still very much in favour of the vaccine,” he said.
AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company that formulated the vaccine with Oxford University, retained the safety of its product.
“The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well-tolerated,” a spokesman for the group told AFP.
Britain, whose widely-praised vaccine rollout has been largely underpinned by the AstraZeneca jab, also defended it as “both safe and effective”.
The Danish suspension, which will be reviewed after two weeks, is expected to slow down the country’s vaccination campaign.
Denmark now expects to have its entire adult population vaccinated by mid-August instead of early July, the health authority said.
“We are of course saddened by this news,” said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
Frederiksen, who has pushed for the production of more vaccines and has formed a controversial alliance with Austria and Israel to do so, defended the Danish health authorities’ decision.
“There is always a risk associated with vaccines,” she told reporters.
“Things have gone well in Denmark, but there are some risks linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine that needs to be examined more closely. That seems to me to be the right way to proceed.”
Danish Health Authority director Soren Brostrom emphasized that “we have not terminated the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we are just pausing its use”.
“There is broad documentation proving that the vaccine is both safe and efficient,” Brostrom said.
“But both we and the Danish Medicines Agency must act on information about possible serious side effects, both in Denmark and in other European countries.”