Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine amid concerns of patients developing blood clots post inoculation, reported AFP.
The health authority in Denmark, which was the first to announce the suspension, said that there were “reports of serious cases of blood clots” among people who received the vaccine but stressed that it was only a precautionary measure. “It has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots,” the Danish Health and Medicines Authority said.
The European Medicines Agency, or EMA, said that 22 cases of blood clots have been reported from among the 3 million, or 30 lakh, vaccinated till March 9 in the European Economic Area, comprising the European Union and three countries of the European Free Trade Association excluding Switzerland.
The EMA has launched an inquiry into the incident, according to Sky News. The Danish Health and Medicines Authority said the rollout out of the vaccine shots would be halted for at least 14 days as the inquiry was being conducted.
“We are acting early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated,” Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said. Following Denmark’s announcement, Norway and Iceland also suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, citing similar concerns.
On Monday, Austria had suspended the use of the vaccine from a particular batch after a 49-year-old nurse, who had received the jab, died of “severe blood coagulation problems”. Another person who received a shot from the same vaccine batch was hospitalised because of a blood clot, according to BBC.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg also suspended the use of vaccines from the same batch. It was sent to 17 European countries and has one million, or 10 lakh, shots.
The EMA had said on Wednesday that a preliminary inquiry showed that the batch of vaccines used in Austria did not likely lead to the death of the nurse.
AstraZeneca, which developed the vaccine with Oxford University, defended the product. “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,” a spokesperson for the company told AFP.
Britain also defended the vaccine, calling it “both safe and effective”. Professor Anthony Harnden, a member of the UK-based Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations, told Sky News that there was no reason to worry about the safety of the vaccine.
“People shouldn’t be worried, we have given 11 million [1.1 crore] doses and our regulator reviews the safety reports as they come in,” he told the news channel. Harnden added that it was already known that the coronavirus can lead to “quite severe blood clots”.
Meanwhile, Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen defended the decision to suspend the use of the vaccine. “There is always a risk associated with vaccines,” she said. “Things have gone well in Denmark, but there are some risks linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine that need to be examined more closely. That seems to me to be the right way to proceed.”
In India, the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is one of the two vaccines approved for emergency use. Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, is the other vaccine.