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More European nations pause AstraZeneca vaccine use as blood clot reports investigated

   March 12, 2021 1:16 AM
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by Antonia Mortensen, Schams Elwazer and Arnaud Siad, CNN

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European Vaccines
 
(CNN)Denmark, Iceland and Norway have suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine while the European Union's medicines regulator investigates whether the shot could be linked to a number of reports of blood clots.

Denmark announced a two-week suspension on Thursday following a number of reports of clotting in the country, including one fatal case. Iceland and Norway followed suit, but did not say how long their suspensions would last. Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke made clear the pause was a "precautionary measure," saying it was not possible yet to draw conclusions. "We act early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated," he said in a tweet. The Danish Health Authority also stressed that the decision was temporary. "We are in the middle of the largest and most important vaccination rollout in Danish history. And right now we need all the vaccines we can get. Therefore, putting one of the vaccines on pause is not an easy decision. But precisely because we vaccinate so many, we also need to respond with timely care when there is knowledge of possible serious side effects. We need to clarify this before we can continue to use the vaccine from AstraZeneca," Søren Brostrøm, director of the National Board of Health, said in the statement.

"It is important to emphasize that we have not opted out of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but that we are putting it on hold. There is good evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective. But both we and the Danish Medicines Agency have to react to reports of possible serious side effects, both from Denmark and other European countries. It shows that the monitoring system works. " Speaking to CNN Kjartan Njálsson, assistant to the director of health in Iceland, said that although there had been no reports of patients developing blood clots in the country, they were waiting for advice from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). "It's the lack of data right now that concerns us," he added. The EMA said later Thursday that it did not recommend suspending use of the vaccine. The agency said it was aware that Denmark had suspended use but that there was "currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine."

"The vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing," the agency added.

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