March 15, 2021 — A number of nations have paused using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of reports the vaccine might be linked to blood clots.
Germany, France, Italy, and Spain have become the latest countries to suspend using the vaccine, joining Ireland, Denmark, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Congo, and Bulgaria.
AstraZeneca issued a statement saying that 15 cases of DVT and 22 of pulmonary embolism had been reported among people receiving the vaccine in the United Kingdom and the European Union.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is “a precaution taken in the light of their national situation.” But the EMA as well as the World Health Organization said data does not show the vaccine caused the clots and people should keep getting vaccinated with it because the benefit outweighs the risk.
“Many thousands of people develop blood clots annually in the EU for different reasons. The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population,” the EMA said in a statement.
AstraZeneca defended the safety of the vaccine.
“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” Ann Taylor, chief medical officer, said in a news release.
“The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety.”
AstraZeneca says clinical trials show its vaccine has an efficacy of about 70% compared to the 95% and 94% efficacy for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively. All three are being used in Europe.
The World Health Organization authorized the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine on Feb. 15. That allowed the United Nations to distribute doses to low- and middle-income countries.
AstraZeneca says it plans to seek emergency use authorization from the FDA soon.