Germany, France and Italy on Monday became the latest countries to temporarily suspend use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca over blood clot concerns, joining others in Europe including Ireland, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.
The German Health Ministry pointed to a recommendation from the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) for vaccines and biomedicines that further research was required.
“After new reports of thrombosis of the cerebral veins in connection with the vaccine in Germany and Europe, the PEI considers further investigations to be necessary,” a ministry spokesman said.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said Germany had recorded seven cases of thrombosis in cerebral veins among 1.6 million vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab. “It occurred very rarely,” Spahn said. “This concerns a very low risk – but if there really is a link with the vaccinations, it is a disproportionate risk,” Spahn added.
Spahn said that in order to resume use, Germany was waiting for a new assessment of the jab by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which he expected “ideally to come to a decision by the end of this week.”
Meanwhile, anyone who received the AstraZeneca jab and was experiencing symptoms like strong headaches or bleeding under skin was urged to seek out a doctor.
French President Emmanuel Macron also said the jab will stop being used until a new assessment is conducted by the EMA over whether there is ay link between the vaccine and reported incidents of blood clots. He called it a “precautionary measure” and said there is the possibility that the vaccinations could be resumed quickly.
Italian medicines regulator Aifa called its nationwide suspension a precautionary move and said it would wait until the EMA’s decision, after talks with Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Health Minister Roberto Speranza.
Last week, several people in Italy died who had previously been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab, though no causal link has been established in those cases.
AstraZeneca said on Sunday that there is no evidence its Covid-19 vaccine increases the risk of blood clots.
Several other countries in Europe have also temporarily halted vaccinations with the jab produced by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant and Britain’s Oxford University, which has been inconclusively linked to a risk of blood clots.
The EMA, which recommended the vaccine be approved in late January, has launched an investigation into the vaccine, as have national health authorities in several European countries.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday rejected the idea Britain would suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Johnson said the medicines regulator in Britain was “one of the toughest and most experienced” in the world, and they see “no reason at all” to discontinue any of the vaccines being administered to Britons.
“They believe that [Britain’s current vaccines] are highly effective in driving down not just hospitalization but also serious disease and mortality,” he told reporters on Monday, according to the Press Association (PA) news agency.
“We continue to be very confident about the programme and it’s great to see it being rolled out at such speed across the UK,” he said.
The Czech Republic and Poland also said that they had no immediate plans to suspend vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“We are acting in line with the recommendations of the [EMA]. For now no decision on suspending AstraZeneca vaccinations in Poland has been taken,” Health Ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz told PAP agency, who added that adverse vaccine events occurred after just 0.36 per cent of AstraZeneca jabs administered in Poland.
Czech Health Minister Jan Blatny said that the positive benefits of the vaccine were undeniable, but added that recent incidents in other countries and their investigations were being followed very closely.