Germany suspends AstraZeneca Covid vaccine amid blood clot worries

The federal government announced Monday that AstraZeneca’s use of coronavirus vaccine would be suspended amid new reports of dangerous blood clots related to the shot.

The Ministry of Health said the decision was taken as a “precautionary measure” and on the advice of the German vaccine regulatory agency, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation into the cases.

In a statement, the ministry said the European Medicines Agency would decide “whether and how the new information will affect the approval of the vaccine”.

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In its statement, the Ministry of Health said the reported blood clots affected cerebral veins but did not specify where or when the incidents occurred. Several other European countries have temporarily stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine in the past few days to investigate cases of blood clots that have occurred after vaccination.

AstraZeneca has indicated that there is no cause for concern about the vaccine and that those who received the shot had fewer reported cases of thrombosis than the general population.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have also stated that the available data do not suggest that the vaccine caused the blood clots and that people should continue to be vaccinated.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received just over 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and has only used 1.35 million doses to date.

Denmark became the first country to stop using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine last week after blood clots were reported in a few people, including one person who developed multiple blood clots and died 10 days after receiving at least one dose. The Danish health authorities said the suspension would last at least two weeks while the cases were being investigated, although they noted that “it cannot currently be concluded whether there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots”.

Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Thailand and the Congo soon followed. On Saturday, Norwegian authorities reported that four people under the age of 50 who received the AstraZeneca vaccine had abnormally low platelet counts. This could lead to heavy bleeding. Shortly afterwards, Ireland and the Netherlands announced that they too would temporarily stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Dutch authorities said – as elsewhere – that the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine was a strictly precautionary measure.

“We always have to play it safe, which is why it makes sense to press the pause button now as a precaution,” said the Dutch Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge.

On Monday, Norwegian doctors announced that one of the people hospitalized after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine had died. After saying last week they would proceed with the vaccine, German officials said Monday they would stop its use after new reports of problems, based on advice from the medicines agency.

In response to the suspension of its vaccine, AstraZeneca said it had carefully reviewed the data of 17 million people who had received doses across Europe. There was “no evidence of increased risk” for blood clots in any age group or gender in any country.

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