Netherlands suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine ‘over 10 cases of adverse effects’

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been allowed for emergency use in 70 countries so far

Mayank Aggarwal
Monday 15 March 2021 14:08
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Benefits outweigh risks with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, experts say

The Netherlands has suspended the use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford over blood-clotting concerns despite the pharmaceutical company claiming that a review of safety data for people vaccinated so far has shown no evidence of it.

With this, the Netherlands has joined several other nations, including Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Bulgaria and Iceland and Thailand, who have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

The Dutch government, which had pre-ordered 12 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, said that as a precaution the vaccine will not be used until 29 March. The authorities had scheduled about 290,000 AstraZeneca vaccinations over the next two weeks.

The government said that the decision was taken after reports from Denmark and Norway about potentially serious side effects of the vaccine.

On Saturday, the Norwegian health authorities said three health workers who had recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine were being treated in the hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets.

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The Dutch health ministry said that no such cases had yet been found in the Netherlands, and there was no proof yet of a direct link between the vaccine and the reports from Denmark and Norway.

The Dutch health minister, Hugo de Jonge, said: “We can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine … We have to make sure everything is right, so it is wise to pause for now.” He said it would now be investigated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

On Monday, hours after the vaccination programme was put on hold, a Dutch drug watchdog said there have been 10 cases of noteworthy adverse side effects involving AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

The Pharmacovigilance Centre Lareb said in a statement that these included cases of possible thrombosis or embolism, but that none of the cases involved a lowered number of platelets.

On Sunday, Italy’s northern region of Piedmont also said it would stop using a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a teacher died following a vaccination on Saturday. Last week, Austria stopped using a particular batch of vaccines.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been granted authorisation for emergency use in more than 70 countries across six continents, but not in the US so far. With the recent decision of the World Health Organisation to allow its emergency use, the company claims it could reach up to 142 countries through Covax, an international initiative for ensuring access to coronavirus vaccines.

“Can all those European countries that are pausing the AstraZeneca vaccinations please sell all their available doses to Belgium? Thx! FYI: out of 17 million people vaccinated, there were only 37 cases of blood clotting, which is lower than expected among the general population,” tweeted Tom Wenseleers, a biology and biostatistics professor at Belgium’s KU Leuven University.

AstraZeneca said on Sunday that a “careful review of available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and UK” with their jab “has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country”.

It said that 15 events of deep vein thrombosis and 22 events of pulmonary embolism had been reported so far, which is “similar across other licensed Covid-19 vaccines”.

“In terms of quality, there are also no confirmed issues related to any batch of our vaccine used across Europe, or the rest of the world,” the company said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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