Netherlands suspends use of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine amid blood clot investigation
As a precaution, the Netherlands decided to suspend the use of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca for two weeks. Up to March 28, no one will be given this vaccine, the Ministry of Public Health said on Sunday night. Tens of thousands of vaccination appointments were canceled. This does not affect scheduled shots with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
The suspension follows reports from several countries of people getting thrombosis after getting an AstraZeneca shot. These involve serious, rare signs of blood clot formation and a reduced number of blood platelets in adults under the age of 50 years. Six new reports of these possible side effects were received from Denmark and Norway, the Ministry said on Sunday.
On Thursday, the Dutch medicines authority CBG and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge both said it was very unlikely that the AstraZeneca vaccine caused these symptoms. But after the new reports, CBG advised the Ministry to rather be safe and suspend the use of the vaccine pending investigation. De Jonge said that there must be "no doubts" about the vaccines.
"The crucial question is whether it concerns complaints after vaccination or due to vaccination. I think it is very important that the reports are properly investigated. We must always err on the side of caution, which is why it is wise to press the pause button now as a precaution. I rely entirely on our experts," the departing Health Minister said in a statement. On Monday morning he stressed that the vaccines are safe and this pause is just a precaution.
Netherlands residents who were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine are advised to contact their doctor immediately if they develop blue spots on their skin three days after the injection, or if they develop unexpected or unknown symptoms. The CBG stressed that the chance of this is extremely small and people with no strange complaints do not need to be worried.
People who had an appointment for an AstraZeneca shot in the coming two weeks, will get a text message to notify them that their appointment has been cancelled for the time being. A spokesperson for GGD GHOR Nederland, the umbrella organization for the GGD municipal health services, told NOS that around 43 thousand appointments will be canceled - 29 thousand for this week, and 14 thousand for next week. The government's Coronavirus Dashboard shows that 290 thousand AstraZeneca vaccinations were planned for the next two weeks.
This vaccine is used to vaccinate care workers in long-term care, for people aged 60 to 64, people with Down's syndrome, people with morbid obesity, and some patients in mental health care.
Earlier on Sunday, AstraZeneca announced that there was no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots in people who received the vaccine. The pharmaceutical company examined the data of over 17 million people who received their vaccine in the European Union and United Kingdom. The European Medicines Agency also previously said that it had no evidence of a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and cases of thrombosis.