COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Danish authorities decided Thursday to extend the suspension of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for three weeks as they continue to assess a possible link to blood clots despite European Union regulators investigating the subject approved the vaccine to use.
Denmark’s decision “was made on the basis of alleged side effects,” Tanja Erichsen, acting director of pharmacovigilance at the Danish Medicines Agency, said during a press conference.
“It cannot be ruled out that there is a connection between the vaccine and very rare cases of blood clots,” he said.
Denmark stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure on March 11 after a 60-year-old woman was reported to have died with blood clots in various parts of her body a week after receiving the vaccine, according to health officials. .
A second person in Denmark was reported to have died after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Danish health authorities said they have no evidence that the vaccine was responsible for any of the deaths.
“I would like to emphasize that I am not talking about common blood clots,” Erichsen said. “This is not about blood clots in the arms, legs and lungs.”
The hiatus will last at least until April 18. Norway and Sweden also discontinued the AstraZeneca vaccine. Most European countries that had suspended the vaccine resumed its administration after the European Medicines Agency said last week that it was safe.
Sweden’s Public Health Agency said Thursday that it would resume giving AstraZeneca injections to people over 65, but recommended continuing to hold them on hold for other age groups while waiting for additional data. Sweden suspended the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 16.
“The vaccine is very useful for the elderly, as many become seriously ill with COVID-19 every day,” said the director of the Swedish agency, Johan Carlson, in a statement. “At the same time, we have not seen a risk of these rare and serious side effects in the elderly. That is the reason why we canceled the rest for people over 65 years old ”.
Health officials in neighboring Finland said late Wednesday that the country would resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday after a hiatus of more than a week, but would only administer it to people over 65.
Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in Finland last Friday after blood clots were diagnosed in the brains of two people who had received the injection.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, more than 1 million doses of various vaccines have been administered in Denmark, which has a population of almost 6 million. The vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna account for the majority of injections administered in the Scandinavian country, and around 150,000 people in Denmark have received an injection of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Many may wonder if we are too cautious. To that I will say: ‘You can say that’ We have added additional precautionary principles, ‘said Danish Health Authority Director General Soeren Brostroem.
Brostroem said that when and if Denmark resumes use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, people will have the option of rejecting the vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish drug manufacturer.
“You can wait and get another one,” he said. Denmark also uses vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
The European Medicines Agency has said that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks and that the vaccine can continue to be administered while a closer evaluation of blood clot cases continues.
“At this time, we believe that our basis for making a final decision on the further use of the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca is too uncertain,” said Brostroem. “Many studies have been launched, but we do not have any conclusions yet. That is why we have decided to extend the hiatus.”
Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Finland contributed to this report.