Covid-19: Netherlands suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccineon March 15, 2021 at 6:30 am

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It is the latest nation to act over reports of blood clotting but the WHO says it is safe.

A woman receives the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine under the COVAX scheme against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Eka Kotebe General Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 13, 2021.

image copyrightReuters

The Netherlands has become the latest country to suspend use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine over concerns about possible side effects.

The Dutch government said the move, which will last until at least 29 March, was a precaution.

The Republic of Ireland earlier made a similar decision over reports of blood clotting in recipients in Norway.

The announcements by the Netherlands and Ireland followed similar moves by Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Iceland and Thailand.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) – which is currently carrying out a review into incidents of blood clots – says the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks.

The UK medicines regulator said evidence “does not suggest” the jab causes clots, as it urged people in the country to get the vaccine when asked to do so.

About 17 million people in the European Union and the UK have received a dose of the vaccine, with less than 40 cases of blood clots reported as of last week, AstraZeneca said.

In a statement, the Dutch government said it was acting out of precaution following reports from Denmark and Norway of possible serious side effects.

“We can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine,” Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said.

“We have to make sure everything is right, so it is wise to pause for now.”

Sunday’s decision will now cause delays in the Dutch vaccination programme.

The authorities had pre-ordered 12 million doses of AstraZeneca, with nearly 300,000 jabs scheduled in the next two weeks.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said there was no evidence of an increased risk of clotting due to the vaccine.

It said that across the EU and United Kingdom there had been 15 events of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in a vein – and 22 events of pulmonary embolism – a blood clot that has entered the lungs – reported among those vaccinated.

“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” said Ann Taylor, the firm’s chief medical officer.

“The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety.”

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Analysis box by Michelle Roberts, health editor

While vast numbers of people are being vaccinated at pace around the world, some of them will still get sick with other things unrelated to the vaccine.

These pauses for the AstraZeneca vaccine are not because it is unsafe to give. It’s to allow time for experts to explore why a small number of people who were recently give the shot also developed blood clots.

When an illness occurs shortly after vaccination, it is right to question whether the shot might have contributed in any way.

There is no indication or evidence, however, that the vaccine was linked or responsible.

In the UK, more than 11 million people have already received at least one dose of the vaccine and there has been no sign of excess deaths or blood clots occurring. Europe’s drug regulator has also backed the vaccine, saying its benefits are clear. Covid can be deadly and vaccination saves lives.

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Chart showing the number of countries using each vaccine. Updated 12 March.
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