In the wake of reports from Norway of blood clots in people shortly after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Netherlands and Ireland have suspended its use.
The Dutch Health ministry on Sunday said that there was still no evidence of a direct link between the vaccine and possible adverse effects from Norway and Denmark, and there were no reported cases in the Netherlands.
“We can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine,” Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge said. “We have to make sure everything is right, so it is wise to pause for now.”
Earlier on Sunday Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said that deployment of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which makes up 20% of the country’s 570 000 doses given so far, should be “temporarily deferred” with immediate effect as recommended by the country’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). However, he emphasised that there was no proof that blood clots had been caused by the vaccine.
The first blood clots were reported in Austria, and prompted a wave of concern, with Denmark suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine, along with the north of Italy. These latest cases in Norway resulted in three hospitalisations and one death.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency said the four people who had the AstraZeneca injection all had reduced numbers of blood platelets. It added: “People under the age of 50 who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine and feel increasingly unwell more than three days after vaccination, and who notice larger or smaller blue spots in the skin (skin haemorrhages) must consult a doctor or out-of-hours medical service as soon as possible.
“Similar incidents have been reported in other European countries, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is considering whether there may be an association with the coronavirus vaccines. So far, no conclusion has been reached.”
Professor Karina Butler, head of NIAC, said it was acting out of an abundance of caution but wanted a better understanding of this unanticipated cluster of “very serious” clotting events in younger people.
There were similarities to other cases reported elsewhere in Europe, she added. It was necessary to know “was there a possibility of a relationship with the vaccine, something which was rare but very serious and could have significant outcomes”, she said to Virgin Media News.
The agency did not yet know whether more blood clots were happening than expected in the population generally. “But they do seem to have clustered together at a level and in younger people – I mean less than 65 – where we wouldn’t necessarily have expected them to happen and thus the question was should we just pause until we get that information, because above all we want to maintain confidence in the vaccine programme so that people can feel that what they are getting is safe, that any serious safety signal is being thoroughly investigated,” she said.
In a statement, Dr Glynn said: “It has not been concluded that there is any link between the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases. However, acting on the precautionary principle, and pending receipt of further information, the NIAC has recommended the temporary deferral of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.”
Source: The Guardian