March 16: Spain, Germany, France and Italy joined the group of countries to suspend the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine over reports of blood clots, as the third wave of infections looms over the continent.
The Anglo-Swedish drug company moved to defend its shot as countries including Denmark, Norway and Iceland have halted the rollout as a precautionary step as they lack evidence to substantiate that shot was responsible for blood clots.
The German health ministry said the government was acting in accordance with a recommendation of the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the country’s national vaccine regulator, which called for further investigation of the cases.Over 11 million have been vaccinated in the United Kingdom with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a nationally televised news conference on Monday, Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said that it was a temporary and precautionary suspension until the risks can be evaluated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Meanwhile, German health minister Jens Spahn said Monday that the country would pause inoculations as a precaution after some cases of blood clots were reported in people post-vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Denmark and Norway.
“We have decided to suspend the use of AstraZeneca as a precautionary measure and are hoping to resume it quickly if the EMA’s allows it,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a news conference on Monday.
The suspensions go against the advice of the World Health Organization, the EMA and the pharmaceutical giant itself, all of whom have said there is no evidence of a link with clotting and that rollouts should continue while the reports are investigated.
“As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” the WHO said.