Ireland suspends AstraZeneca vaccine as Norway investigates blood clots

Ireland has joined nine other European countries in suspending the administration of the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine temporarily.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended suspension of the use of the jab after Norwegian authorities moved to investigate cases of blood clotting after the vaccine was received.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the NIAC’s recommendation had been made following the release of four new reports of serious blood clotting events in adults from the Norwegian Medicines Agenc

“It has not been concluded that there is any link between the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases,” Dr Glynn said.

“However, acting on the precautionary principle, and pending receipt of further information, the NIAC has recommended the temporary deferral of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.”

Norwegian health officials also reported three more cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages in younger people who received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab, but said they had not yet determined if the outcomes were vaccine-related.

Yesterday, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said it had “received several adverse event reports about younger vaccinated people with bleeding under the skin (tiny dots and /or larger blue patches) after coronavirus vaccination.

“This is serious and can be a sign of reduced blood platelet counts,” it said.

“Today, we received three more reports of severe cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages in younger people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. These are now receiving hospital treatment,” it added.

A spokesperson for the  Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said that following the decision to suspend the jab, it was now “the Norwegian Medicines Agency’s role to follow up on these suspected side effects and take the necessary measures”.

The NIAC’s decision to suspend the use of AstraZeneca comes after nine other countries across Europe stopped administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, or specific batches of the jab,  during the past week over blood clot fears. The EU’s medical regulators say there is no evidence of any link.

On Thursday, Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine entirely. Denmark halted the shots for two weeks following the death of a 60-year-old woman who formed a blood clot and died, the Danish health authorities said. The woman had received the vaccine from the same batch causing concerns in Austria, where a 49-year old nurse had died from a blood clot on Monday shortly after receiving the shot.

Soren Brostrom, director of the National Board of Health in Denmark, said the 14-day pause was a precaution while investigations took place.

“It is important to emphasize that we have not opted out of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but that we are putting it on hold. There is good evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective. But both we and the Danish Medicines Agency have to react to reports of possible serious side effects, both from Denmark and other European countries,” he said.

Five other countries – Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg – have now suspended any further use of that batch – ABV5300 – which was made up of one million vaccine shots and was sent to 17 European countries.

Italy has also paused the use of a different batch of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines after a naval officer and a policeman died. The country’s medicine regulator and health authorities are investigating batch ABV2856 of the vaccine following the death of Stefano Paternò, who died of a cardiac arrest 24 hours after receiving the jab, and the death of a police officer who also died within 12 days of vaccination.

However, the European Medicines Agency said in a statement: ‘The position of EMA’s safety committee… is that the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing.’

 

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