The German government said Monday that it’s suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine over new reports of dangerous blood clots in connection with the shot.
The Health Ministry said the decision was taken as a “precaution” and on the advice of Germany’s national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation of the cases.
In a statement, the ministry said the European Medicines Agency would decide “whether and how the new information will affect the authorization of the vaccine.”
In its statement, the health ministry said the reported blood clots involved cerebral veins, but didn’t specify where or when the incidents occurred. Several other European countries have temporarily halted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days to investigate cases of blood clots that occurred after vaccination.
AstraZeneca has said there is no cause for concern with its vaccine and that there were fewer reported thrombosis cases in those who received the shot than in the general population.
The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have also said that available data do not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and that people should continue to be immunized.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received slightly over 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and only used 1.35 million doses so far.
Denmark was the first country to halt its use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine last week after reports of blood clots in some people, including one person who developed multiple clots and died 10 days after receiving at least one dose. Danish health authorities said the suspension would last for at least two weeks while the cases were investigated, even as they noted that “at present, it cannot be concluded whether there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”
Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Thailand, and Congo soon followed suit. On Saturday, Norwegian authorities reported that four people under age 50 who had gotten the AstraZeneca vaccine had an unusually low number of blood platelets. That could lead to severe bleeding. Shortly afterward, Ireland and the Netherlands announced that they, too, were stopping their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine temporarily.
Authorities in the Netherlands — like those elsewhere — said their suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine was strictly precautionary.
“We must always err on the side of caution, which is why it is sensible to press the pause button now as a precaution,” said Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch health minister.
On Monday, Norwegian doctors announced that one of the people hospitalized after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine had died. After saying last week they would continue with the vaccine, German officials said Monday they would suspend its use after new reports of problems, based on the advice from its medicines regulator.
In response to the suspensions of its vaccine, AstraZeneca said it had carefully reviewed the data on 17 million people who received doses across Europe. It said there was “no evidence of an increased risk” of blood clots in any age group or gender in any country.