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Berlin again suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine for those below age 60 due to blood clot cases

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The German state of Berlin has suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 for people under the age of 60, citing reports of rare but serious side effects.

Health Senator Dilek Kalayci announced on Tuesday, 30 March, that the decision had been taken as a precautionary measure while the state awaited the outcome of deliberations at the federal level and further statements from experts such as the country’s medicines regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute.

All AstraZeneca vaccine appointments in the state have been cancelled for the time being.

Earlier in the day, the city’s Charité and Vivantes hospitals suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations for women under the age of 55, after more reports came to light of patients developing an unusual form of blood clot in the head after receiving the vaccine. The few cases recorded have primarily affected younger women. 

“From the Charité’s point of view, this step is necessary because in the meantime other cerebral venous thromboses have been detected in women in Germany,” a spokesperson for the Charité hospital said. She added that no complications with the vaccine had been recorded at the hospital, but that it wanted to act as a precaution and wait for final evaluations.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, the heads of five university hospitals have also spoken out in favour of temporarily halting AstraZeneca vaccines for younger women, while the data is examined. In a joint letter to the federal and state health ministers, they say that the risk of further deaths is too high.

Germany, along with several other European countries, briefly suspended the use of the vaccine earlier this month, citing concerns about blood clotting, but resumed inoculations after the EMA said that the jab was “safe and effective”. The vaccine now comes with new advice about potential side effects.

According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, 31 cases of cerebral venous thrombosis have been reported so far following jabs with the AstraZeneca vaccine, including two men and 29 women, aged between 20 and 63. Nine people have died. As of Monday, 2,7 million first doses and 767-second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in Germany.

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