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Some European Countries Suspend AstraZeneca Vaccine Rollout

Some European Countries have paused their rollouts of the Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine over concerns it could cause blood clots.

Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and the Netherlands have joined the growing list of countries that have suspended the use of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca over a small number of blood clot concerns.

The Dutch government said Sunday, March 14, that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would not be used until at least March 29, while Ireland said earlier in the day that it had temporarily suspended the shot as a precautionary step.

Monday, March 15, After initially standing by the safety of the vaccine, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that the country would pause inoculations as a precaution, following reports of a handful of cases of blood clots in people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot in Denmark and Norway.

France and Italy also halted their rollouts of the vaccine, pending review by the EU’s medicines regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), although the body later reiterated its advice that countries stick to the rollout.

According to French President Emmanuel Macron in a news conference, “We have decided to suspend the use of AstraZeneca as a precautionary measure and are hoping to resume it quickly if the EMA’s advice allows it.”

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.

In a statement, “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 also added it was assessing the latest reports, but said any change in its recommendations would be “unlikely.”

The EMA also reiterated that countries should continue their rollouts, adding that it would meet on Thursday to discuss the concerns but that the benefit of vaccinations outweighs any potential risks.

“While its investigation is ongoing, EMA currently remains of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects,” the agency said.

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