Many European countries ban AstraZeneca vaccine

Some European countries banned the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University amid reports of severe or fatal blood clots in vaccinated people.

Citing cases of severe or fatal blood clots, Denmark on Thursday temporarily halted use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca.

A Danish Health and Medicines Authority statement said that reports of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated are also being investigated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

After a 14-day suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine, health authorities will issue a new assessment, it said.

Norway also followed Denmark’s decision on halting the vaccination as a “cautionary” measure, Geir Bukholm, the director of infection prevention and control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, told a news conference on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) on Thursday banned nationwide the use of a batch of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine due to “serious adverse events” after inoculation.

The agency said in a statement the ban targets batch ABV2856, adding it may consider additional measures, if needed, in coordination with the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The Italian agency stressed, however, that at present there is no proven connection between the inoculation of the vaccine and the adverse reactions.

Austria also suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday after a 49-year old woman died as a result of blood clots 10 days after receiving the jab.

“There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine,” EMA said on Wednesday in a statement.

“Batch ABV5300 was delivered to 17 EU countries and comprises a million doses of the vaccine. Some EU countries [Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia] have also subsequently suspended this batch as a precautionary measure, while a full investigation is ongoing. Although a quality defect is considered unlikely at this stage, the batch quality is being investigated,” it added.

UK, France resist

Responding to the decision taken by Denmark, vaccines safety lead of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Dr. Phil Bryan said that the action undertaken by Danish authorities was a precautionary measure and that, as of yet, it has been unconfirmed that the blood clot was a result of the Oxford vaccine.

“Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine have now been administered across the UK,” Bryan said in a statement on Thursday.

France, which is administering AstraZeneca to people above the age of 50, defended the vaccine’s use. At a news conference, Health Minister Olivier Veran said: “There is no need to suspend vaccination of AstraZeneca.” 

He added that 5 million Europeans had received the vaccine so far of which 30 people have developed blood clots and “this does not constitute a statistical excess risk.”

Veran, who personally took the AstraZeneca dose last month, said the benefits of the vaccine outpace the risk.

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