France, Italy follow Germany in suspending Astrazeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns
France and Italy have followed Germany as the latest EU countries to suspend the rollout of the Astrazeneca vaccine over concerns of “serious side effects” including blood clots.
France said it was suspending the vaccine’s use pending an assessment by the EU medicine regulator due tomorrow. Italy said its halt was a “precautionary and temporary measure” pending the regulator’s ruling.
Germany’s health ministry said it would impose a temporary ban on the jab while it investigates reports of possible links between the vaccine and blood clots.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted this afternoon that the Astrazeneca vaccine “remains both safe and effective,” adding that there was “no evidence” that blood clots are any more likely to occur following vaccination.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) insisted it is “routine practice” to investigate events like the reports of blood clots following vaccination, but that doing so “does not necessarily mean” these events are linked.
It comes after The Netherlands this morning joined a growing list of countries that have temporarily suspended the rollout of the Astrazeneca vaccine over possible side effects.
Ireland announced a two-week ban on the jab yesterday after Norway reported that one person had died and three had been admitted to hospital after receiving the vaccine.
Thailand, Denmark, Iceland and Norway all suspended vaccinations using the Astrazeneca jab last week during an investigation into a blood clot-related death of a patient in Denmark.
Speaking this afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the decision by the UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to administer the jab to all age groups without limitations.
“In the MHRA we have one of the toughest and most experienced regulators in the world,” he said. “They see no reason at all to discontinue the vaccination programme… for either of the vaccines that we’re currently using.
“They believe that they are highly effective in driving down not just hospitalisation but also serious disease and mortality. We continue to be very confident about the programme and it’s great to see it being rolled out at such speed across the UK.”
The UK has relied heavily on the Astrazeneca jab for the nation’s rapid vaccine rollout, which has seen more than 23m people receive their first injection.
The government has ordered 100m doses of the Covid vaccine produced by the British-Swedish firm — by far the largest vaccine order on Britain’s shopping list.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday there was no evidence of a link between the events and the jabs, stressing that “the vaccine’s benefits currently still outweigh the risks”. It urged countries to continue with their vaccination campaigns.
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It added that the number of blood clots in people who have received the Astrazeneca vaccine is no higher than that seen in the general population. So far, 22 blood clots have been reported among the 3m people who have received the Astrazeneca jab as of 9 March.