International 15/03/2021

Germany also stops AstraZeneca vaccination

Norway detects four cases of severe thrombosis in people who had received the injection a few days earlier

2 min
One vial of AstraZeneca's vaccine

SabadellGermany has announced that as a preventive measure it is suspending vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine due to the detection of several suspected cases of thrombosis and thus joins the list of countries that are pausing the campaign with this vaccine following several cases of blood clots in patients who had received it.

Germany's decision comes just hours after the government of the Netherlands also announced a temporary halt to the administration of the vaccine, on suspicions that it could be linked to the risk of blood clots for recipients. Ireland had also announced a halt on Sunday, as had Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Iceland and Thailand. The measure is temporary until studies to determine whether or not these thrombi are related to the vaccine can be completed.

"There must be no doubt about the vaccines. It is very important that reports of side effects are properly investigated. We always have to err on the side of caution, so it is now advisable to press the pause button as a precautionary measure, I have full confidence in our experts for that," said Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge.

The facts are being studied, and for now there is no conclusive evidence linking the vaccine to these thrombi, but the new cases join those that had already been detected during the week in Austria, Denmark and Italy, some of which also ended up causing the death of patients. In none of these incidents, however, has a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the injection and subsequent health problems been established. According to the Irish Minister of Health, Stephen Donnelly, the decision to stop the use of this vaccine in the country is a "precautionary" measure.

Stephen Donnelly, Irish Health Minister

In addition to the four countries that have temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine, other states (including Austria, Italy, Lithuania, Estonia, Luxembourg, Greece, Romania and Latvia) have withdrawn the specific batches of the drug linked to the incidents. Nevertheless, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) see no reason to stop using the vaccine and recommend its continued use. AstraZeneca doses continue to be used normally in many European countries, including Spain, one of the 17 territories where vials of the same batch withdrawn in Austria were sent.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it has analysed the effects of more than 17 million doses administered so far and has found "no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia [low platelet count]". "In fact, the number of such events recorded with AstraZeneca's covid-19 vaccine is no higher than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population," says the drugmaker, which recalls that no link between the vaccine and these effects was detected in its clinical trials. In any case, the company says it is "carefully" analysing these cases.

"Unusual" symptoms

In the cases detected in Norway that prompted Ireland's decision, the patients showed "very unusual symptoms", such as bleeding, thrombosis and a drop in the level of platelets in the blood, according to the medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency, Steinar Madsen. "They are pretty unwell, we are taking it very seriously," Madsen added. The patients are adults under the age of 50.

In a statement, the agency has asked people in this age group and who have received the same vaccine to go to a doctor "as soon as they can" if they notice that their health condition worsens "more than three days after vaccination" or if they detect "large or small blue dots on the skin."

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