Germany, Italy, France Suspend AstraZeneca Shots amid Safety Fears
By Staff, Reuters
Germany, France and Italy said on Monday they would suspend AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots after several countries reported possible serious side-effects, but the World Health Organization [WHO] said there was no proven link and people should not panic.
Still, the decision by the European Union’s three biggest countries to put inoculations with the AstraZeneca shot on hold threw the already struggling vaccination campaign in the 27-nation EU into disarray.
Denmark and Norway stopped giving the shot last week after reporting isolated cases of bleeding, blood clots and a low platelet count. Iceland and Bulgaria followed suit and Ireland and the Netherlands announced suspensions on Sunday.
Spain will stop using the vaccine for at least 15 days, Cadena Ser radio reported, citing unnamed sources.
The top WHO scientist reiterated on Monday that there have been no documented deaths linked to COVID-19 vaccines.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said an advisory committee meeting on AstraZeneca would be held on Tuesday. EU medicines regulator EMA will also convene this week to assess the information gathered into whether the AstraZeneca shot contributed to thromboembolic events in those inoculated.
The moves by some of Europe’s largest and most populous countries will deepen concerns about the slow rollout of vaccines in the region, which has been plagued by shortages due to problems producing vaccines, including AstraZeneca’s.
Germany warned last week it was facing a third wave of infections, Italy is intensifying lockdowns and hospitals in the Paris region are close to being overloaded.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that although the risk of blood clots was low, it could not be ruled out.
“This is a professional decision, not a political one,” Spahn said, adding he was following a recommendation of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Germany’s vaccine regulator.
France said it was suspending the vaccine’s use pending an assessment by EMA.
“The decision taken, in conformity also with our European policy, is to suspend, out of precaution, vaccination with the AZ shot, hoping that we can resume quickly if the EMA’s guidance allows,” French President Emmanuel Macron said.
Italy said its halt was a “precautionary and temporary measure” pending EMA’s ruling.
“The EMA will meet soon to clarify any doubts so that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be resumed safely in the vaccination campaign as soon as possible,” said Gianni Rezza, Director General of Prevention at Italy’s Ministry of Health.