Norway and Denmark have both halted the rollout of Astrazeneca’s Covid vaccine as a “cautionary decision”, after reports of one individual suffering severe side effects.
Denmark this morning became the first country to impose a total ban on the Anglo-Swedish firm’s jab, after other countries halted the distribution of certain batch numbers.
The country’s health minister warned of “extremely serious possible side effects” from the Astrazeneca vaccine, after someone who received the vaccine in Denmark died from a blood clot. The suspension will last for two weeks.
Magnus Heunicke said in a statement on Twitter that the country was acting “on the precautionary principle”.
“We cannot yet conclude that there is any connection,” he said. “We are taking action early and this will now be thoroughly investigated.”
In a press release, the Danish Health Authority explained that with “a preventive treatment such as vaccination”, it judged it “unacceptable to have very serious side effects.”
The Danish Medicines Agency has meanwhile called on everyone who has received the AstraZeneca vaccine within the last 14 days and who had experienced symptoms for more than three days to visit their doctor.
The move caused Norway to follow suit this afternoon. Geir Bukholm, director of infection prevention and control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, told a news conference it was “a cautionary decision”.
Separately, Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Latvia have paused vaccinations administered using a specific vaccine batch, ABV5300, which was administered to a person in Austria who died from a blood clot last week.
A spokesperson for the Danish Medicines Agency stressed that it remained unclear whether the person who died of a blood clot in Denmark had also received a jab from Batch ABV5300.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was no evidence so far linking Astrazeneca to the two cases in Austria.
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.
However, the Danish health authority has now drawn up a revised vaccination programme, which it said could cause delays to the nation’s inoculation schedule.
“Putting one of the vaccines on pause was not an easy decision. But precisely because we are vaccinating so many people, we also need to respond rapidly and with diligence, if there is knowledge of a possible serious side effect,” said agency director Soren Bodstrom.
An Astrazeneca spokesperson said: “Patient safety is the highest priority for Astrazeneca. Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes Covid-19 vaccine Astrazeneca.
“The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in Phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well tolerated.”