More European countries suspend vaccine rollout, perplexing experts
Several more European countries have halted the rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine following reports of blood clots in people who have received it.
However, regulators and the manufacturer said there is no evidence that the vaccine causes these types of adverse events.
To date, Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Spain and Sweden have stopped vaccinations over safety concerns, according to reporting from multiple news outlets.
Countries began suspending use of the vaccine after two patients, one in Austria and one in Denmark, died after being administered the vaccine. Another patient in Austria experienced a pulmonary embolism after being given the vaccine and is currently recovering.
“I do not think the decision being made by these European countries is justified,” Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an Infectious Disease News Editorial Board Member, told Healio. “Just because something occurs after a vaccine does not mean that it is caused by the vaccine.”
According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), there is currently “no indication” that the vaccine causes blood clots.
“The number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than the number seen in the general population,” the EMA wrote in the statement.
AstraZeneca said it evaluated safety data from more than 17 million people who were inoculated in the European Union and the United Kingdom with its vaccine and found “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.”
Adalja noted that the decision to halt vaccinations in Europe will have serious downstream consequences.
“This is particularly problematic because Europe is facing increases in cases and entering shut down in some countries with a very flawed vaccine rollout program,” Adalja said. “I also worry that they will undermine confidence in what is a very good vaccine when it comes time to reinitiate the programs.”
Based on a survey of 19 countries, researchers reported in Nature Medicine that “current levels of willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine are insufficient to meet the requirements for community immunity.”
AstraZeneca. Update on the safety of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca. https://www.astrazeneca.com/media-centre/press-releases/2021/update-on-the-safety-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca.html. Accessed March 16, 2021.
EMA. COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca: PRAC investigating cases of thromboembolic events - vaccine’s benefits currently still outweigh risks – Update. https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca-prac-investigating-cases-thromboembolic-events-vaccines-benefits. Accessed March 16, 2021.
Jordans F. Associated Press. Major European nations suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine. https://apnews.com/article/germany-suspends-astrazeneca-vaccine-blood-clotting-0ab2c4fe13370c96c873e896387eb92f. Accessed March 16, 2021.