Major European countries suspend use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca

BERLIN: An increasing number of European countries, including France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, have halted the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine over reports of blood clots in some recipients. The company and international regulators claim that so far there is no evidence that the vaccine is to blame.

The escalating concern is yet another setback for the ongoing vaccination drive in the European Union, which has been plagued several hurdles including shortages and is well behind the campaigns the U.S and Britain. To review the situation, the EU’s drug regulatory agency has called for a meeting on Thursday so that experts’ findings, on the AstraZeneca shot, could be studied. In that light it will be decided whether or not such action needs to be taken.

The uproar comes when most of Europe is tightening restrictions on businesses and schools amid rising cases of COVID-19. Germany’s health minister said the step to stop AstraZeneca shots was taken on the recommendation of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, country’s vaccine regulator, which asked for further investigation into several cases of clots in the brains of people who took the vaccine.

“The decision taken today is a precautionary measure totally,” Jens Spahn said. French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country will likewise stop the use of vaccine until Tuesday afternoon. Italy also put a temporary ban, as did Portugal, Spain, and Slovenia.

Other countries that have stopped the use of vaccine over the past few days include Ireland, Denmark, Thailand, the Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, Congo and Bulgaria. Britain and Canada are continuing with the vaccine for now.

AstraZeneca, clearing the air, said that there have only been 37 reports of blood clots when more than 17 million people had been vaccinated in Britain and the 27-country EU. The drug maker saw no evidence that the vaccine increases risk of clots.

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