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France, Germany halt use of AstraZeneca vaccine

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Germany and France have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine after several reports of blood clots in people who received the shot in Europe.

The flurry of suspensions on Monday, 15 March, came after a number of other countries, mostly in Europe, halted their rollouts late last week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has backed the use of the vaccine and said it has seen no evidence that the shot had caused clotting in some people who received it.

The UN health agency is reviewing the reports related to shot and urged countries not to suspend vaccinations, as its top scientist said people should not panic.

German health minister Jens Spahn said the country suspended the use of the shot on the advice of the national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute.

The institute had called for further investigation into seven reported cases of clots in the brains of people who had received this vaccination.

“Today’s decision is a purely precautionary measure,” Spahn said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the use of the AstraZeneca shot would be suspended as a precautionary measure until at least Tuesday afternoon when the European Union’s medicines regulator and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will issue its recommendation over the vaccine.

Macron did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision but told a news conference he hoped France would be able to vaccinate with AstraZeneca shots again.

AstraZeneca has said there is no cause for concern with its vaccine, which is jointly produced with the United Kingdom’s University of Oxford, and that there were fewer reported thrombosis cases in those who received the shot than in the general population.

The EMA and the WHO has also said available data does not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and people should continue to be immunised with the shot.

The reassurances appear to have done little to calm doubts, however, with several countries having now temporarily halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days.

Denmark, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands, Iceland and Bulgaria were among those to suspend the use of the shot.

The WHO on Monday called on countries not to suspend vaccinations against a disease that has caused more than 2.7 million deaths worldwide. The UN health agency’s top scientist reiterated that there have been no documented deaths linked to COVID-19 vaccines.

 

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