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Blood-clot fears delay AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out

More than a dozen countries, including France, Italy and Germany, have suspended AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 shots because of fears over blood clots and other possible side effects. The company insists there is no risk, and World Health Organisation (WHO) experts recommend the continued use of the vaccine, but the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was set to meet yesterday to decide on “further actions”.

On 1 March, Denmark became the first country to say it would suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure over fears of blood clots in vaccinated people. 

Iceland and Norway followed and announced they were temporarily suspending its use.

Austria stopped using a batch on 8 March after the death of a 49-year-old nurse from “severe bleeding disorders” days after receiving it. 

Several other countries also suspended the use of doses from the same batch of one million vaccines, which has been delivered to 17 countries.

Last week, Bulgaria suspended the use of the vaccine as it investigates the death of a woman with several underlying conditions who recently received the jab. An initial probe had suggested the woman died from heart failure and an autopsy found no link with the vaccine.

Thailand briefly delayed the start of its roll-out, but Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha received the jab on Tuesday. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was also due to start administering doses, postponed its campaign, citing “precautionary measures”. 

Ireland and the Netherlands joined the list on Sunday. 

Indonesia on Monday said it would “delay” the rollout, pending a WHO review into blood-clot fears.

In a major development, the German health ministry announced it too is halting the jabs, saying a closer look is necessary. President Emmanuel Macron followed, saying France would suspend use, pending a decision on the vaccine’s safety by the EMA.

Italy then added itself to the list, as did Slovenia, Spain, Latvia and Venezuela. Also on Monday, a health worker in Norway died of a brain haemorrhage after receiving the vaccine, though no direct link to the jab has been established.

On Wednesday Lithuania followed the example of Sweden, Luxembourg and Cyprus by also suspending the use of the vaccine.

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