Denmark stops using AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine entirely

Move comes after jab’s possible link to very rare blood clot cases, health authorities say

Denmark has become the first country to stop using AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine altogether, following news of its possible link to very rare blood clot cases, health authorities said. Video: Reuters

 

Denmark is to remove the AstraZeneca vaccine from its national immunisation programme, making permanent a suspension last month amid ongoing concerns it contributed to rare but serious blood clots.

The news comes after German health ministers agreed to allow for mixed serum vaccinations for those under 60, allowing those with an AstraZeneca jab to receive a second from another company.

Denmark’s health authority director Søren Brostrøm said on Wednesday it had been a “difficult decision” to forego a vaccine that had proven to be “effective and accessible” against the novel coronavirus.

“But we have other vaccines available and we have good control over the epidemic,” he said. “At the same time, we have come far with vaccination of older age groups for which the prevention potential of vaccination is greatest.”

Two cases of thrombosis, one of which was fatal, have been recorded among the 140,000 Danes who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Some 17 per cent of Denmark’s 5.8 million residents have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, mostly those by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, while eight per cent are now fully vaccinated.

More than a dozen countries besides Denmark suspended use of AstraZeneca’s product but almost all have resumed after the European Medicines Agency emphasised the vaccine was “safe and effective” with benefits outweighing risks.

Danish health authorities said the results of their own, independent tests had demonstrated a “possible biological explanation” in the vaccine that causes “rare cases of blood clots”.

It hasn’t ruled out reinstating the vaccine in the future but, for now, alternative second vaccines will be on offer for those who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca.

On Wednesday German health authorities decided to take a similar approach for people under 60 who have been given a first dose of that vaccine. Last month, after a brief suspension, Germany announced it would in future offer the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine only to those over 60.

Bavarian health minister Klaus Holetschek said the recommendation to switch vaccines within the 12-week window “will offer a good level of protection”.

The World Health Organisation has said it cannot recommend switching vaccine between two doses as a protection against Covid-19, due to insufficient data showing the effects.

The European Medicines Agency noted 222 cases of atypical thromboses out of 34 million AstraZeneca vaccinations by April 4th in the European Economic Area, which comprises the EU, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

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