Two more countries in the European Union have suspended vaccinations using the AstraZeneca shot that was developed with the University of Oxford due to concerns that it has been causing blood clots to some people.
European countries Sweden and Latvia on Tuesday announced they are halting the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines as EU regulators are still conducting a thorough review of the vaccine.
On Monday, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Slovenia also ordered a halt in using the AstraZeneca shots. Last week, Bulgaria, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Austria ordered a halt in the use of the vaccine due to the blood clot concerns.
Latvian health officials said the decision is based on reports from individual EU countries after cases of thromboembolism and similar cases of concern were observed at various times after receiving the vaccine.
“To date, there is no data on the causal link between vaccination and serious health problems,” Latvian health authorities said.
The Swedish Public Health Agency, in a statement on Tuesday (March 16), said they have “decided to suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine until the European Medicines Agency’s investigation into suspected side effects is done.”
As of Tuesday, around 13 European countries have decided to suspend AstraZeneca vaccinations while a few others have stopped using individual batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a statement on Monday, the EU’s regulator the European Medicines Agency said “the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.”
Events involving blood clots, some with unusual features such as low numbers of platelets, have occurred in a very small number of people who received the vaccine.
Many thousands of people develop blood clots annually in the EU for different reasons, the EMA said. The agency also said the number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population.
The EMA is now working closely with AstraZeneca, with experts in blood disorders, and with other health authorities including the UK’s MHRA to investigate the concerns on blood clots based on its experience with around 11 million administered doses of the vaccine.
“EMA’s investigation has been continuing over the weekend, and rigorous analysis of all the data related to thromboembolic events will be carried out in the coming days. Experts are looking in great detail at all the available data and clinical circumstances surrounding specific cases to determine whether the vaccine might have contributed or if the event is likely to have been due to other causes,” the agency said.
The EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) will also review the cases of blood clots and has called an extraordinary meeting on March 18 to conclude on the information gathered and any further actions that may need to be taken.
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