Germany suspends Oxford Covid vaccine over blood clot fears | Coronavirus

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Germany has become the latest country to suspend the Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine as the World Health Organization said it had seen no evidence it had caused incidents of blood clots and a low platelet count in some people who have received it.

The German health ministry said the national vaccine authority, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, “considers further testing necessary … after new reports of thromboses of the cerebral veins in connection with the vaccination in Germany and Europe”.

A WHO spokesperson, Christian Lindmeier, earlier said it would communicate its findings and “any unlikely changes to current recommendations” as soon as it had investigated and understood the incidents in a small number of countries.

However, “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,” Lindmeier said.

As frustration in Brussels mounts over further significant shortfalls in deliveries by the Anglo-Swedish company, a growing number of European countries have temporarily suspended use of the vaccine, while others continue to administer it.

Denmark and Norway last week reported incidents of bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets in people who had received the AstraZeneca shot, prompting Ireland and the Netherlands to join them on Sunday in temporary suspensions.

The Netherlands clarified on Monday that it had recorded 10 cases of “noteworthy adverse side-effects” from the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Denmark said “highly unusual” symptoms were seen in a 60-year-old recipient who died from a blood clot.

“It was an unusual course of illness around the death that made the Danish Medicines Agency react,” the agency said in a statement. Norway used the same phrase on Saturday about three people under 50 it said were being treated in hospital.

Austria stopped using one batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine on 8 March after a 49-year-old nurse died from “severe bleeding disorders”, and prosecutors in the northern Italian region of Piedmont on Monday seized a batch of 393,600 doses after a 57-year-old music teacher fell ill and died.

While the French health minister, Olivier Véran, said last week the country would continue to use the shot, firemen in the southern Bouches-du-Rhône region on Monday said they had suspended its use after signs of negative side-effects.

AstraZeneca said 17 million people had so far received the jab and the 15 incidences of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and 22 events of pulmonary embolism recorded were “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population”.

Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group which developed the vaccine with the firm, told the BBC there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe have been given so far”.

Downing Street also said the vaccine “remains both safe and effective”. Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said there was “no evidence” that blood clots are any more likely to occur following vaccination.

EU anger continued to mount, meanwhile, over further shortfalls in the company’s deliveries after AstraZeneca said at the weekend it would not be able to meet its targets to the EU in the first quarter and could have problems in the second quarter too.

The company’s initial target was for 120m doses in the first quarter of the year and 180m in the second. It then lowered its first-quarter target to 40m, citing “lower-than-expected output from the production process”, but is now looking at just 30m.

Although it still aims to supply 100m in the second quarter, leaked documents suggest that figure may now be only 70m – meaning the company would have supplied 100m of the 300m doses it promised the EU in the first half.

AstraZeneca said on Saturday that hopes it would be able to compensate production difficulties in its European plants with supplies from its global network were being stymied by some countries’ export restrictions.

The US is refusing to release 30m unused doses even though the vaccine has not been approved by US regulators, while the head of Sweden’s vaccination programme said at the weekend there were clear “contractual obstacles” to AstraZeneca exporting supplies to the EU from the UK.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s industry commissioner, said last week he was not convinced AstraZeneca was making its “best efforts” to meet its obligations. A commission spokesman conceded on Monday that the company’s latest announcement was “disappointing … Things are quite difficult.”

Attention has focused on one plant in Leiden in the Netherlands which has yet to deliver any vaccine material to the EU market but which officials believe may have supplied the UK. AstraZeneca reportedly has not yet applied to European regulators for the plant to be approved for EU production.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Germany suspends Oxford Covid vaccine over blood clot fears | Coronavirus

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