Cyprus suspends AstraZeneca vaccine pending European Union agency review

Katie Ramirez
March 16, 2021

Multiple European countries have temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over reports that the vaccine may cause blood clots in patients.

"With a vaccine rollout like this, we need to monitor carefully for any unusual events".

However, it doesn't appear Canada will stop using the drug just yet, with the country's health agency continuing to point out the supply we have is not one of the batches under scrutiny. Norway and Iceland followed suit.

Sussan Ley says people should have confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"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.

"A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and United Kingdom with Covid Vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country", the company said in a statement.

"After new reports of thrombroses of the cerebral veins in connection with the vaccination in Germany and Europe, the PEI considers further investigations to be necessary", the ministry announced. Spahn said the risk of blood clots from the AstraZeneca jab is low, but could not be ruled out.

Is there any proof the vaccine is responsible?

The European Medicines Agency has said there is no indication that the events were caused by the vaccination, a view that was echoed by the World Health Organization on Friday.

Her comments echoed those made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as Canada's top doctor, after more European countries, including France and Germany temporary suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"The application of more rigorous measures and the progressive rise in the number of vaccinated people make us think that already in the second half of spring, (contagion) numbers will be improving", Health Minister Roberto Speranza told daily la Repubblica in an interview. The researchers behind the vaccine now argue that delayed doses, given three months apart, are actually more likely to improve its effectiveness, rather than smaller doses.

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The announcement will lead to delays in rolling out shots in the Netherlands, which had pre-ordered 12 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine.

Workers unload boxes of AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 that arrived at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 8. But it also noted that it's looking at the two other approved coronavirus vaccines, BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, in relation to potential health problems.

The AstraZeneca crisis comes as a number of countries battle worrying surges in coronavirus infections, a grim reminder that the battle against COVID-19 is far from over.

Has AstraZeneca run into other trouble?

Carl Theriault, a spokesperson for CIUSSS West Central Montreal, said the vaccine is safe for use.

Britain first authorized the vaccine based on partial results that suggested the shots were about 70 percent effective. All pending appointments to get the shot have been canceled. When it recommended the vaccine be licensed, the EMA estimated the vaccine's efficacy to be about 60%.

"If Astra turns out to be a problem, then we've got very little back-up here in Australia in terms of immunisation".

Virologist and associate professor at Northumbria University in the UK, Sterghios Moschos, told DW on Monday that governments should provide clear messaging about their decisions to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine.

So what are experts telling people to do?

Meanwhile, the sitting on tens of millions of unused doses as the local trial winds to an end - doses that the country may or may not loan out to others.

In a statement, AstraZeneca said: "The safety of all is our first priority".

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