Netherlands halts use of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for under-60s
The Dutch government announced on Friday it will immediately suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 for everyone under the age of 60. The decision was made by Health Minister Hugo de Jonge amid renewed concerns about the vaccine’s link to blood clotting.
Earlier in the day, Dutch side effects monitor Lareb reported five more cases of women aged 25 to 65 who had “extensive thrombosis with a low platelet count” within seven to ten days of being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca product. One of the women died from a pulmonary embolism. Two others had similar issues with their lungs, one of whom also suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage. One woman also had extensive abdominal vein thrombosis, and the other developed clotting in the arteries of her legs.
The decision to suspend use of the vaccine was because of the new clot incidents, but the Ministry of Health stopped short of blaming the vaccine for the blood clot cases. For the time being it would wait to resume full use of the vaccine until the European Medicines Agency makes more progress to determine if the blood clots are a side effect caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine. Germany also made the same decision on Wednesday.
“There should be no doubts whatsoever about the safety of vaccines. The crucial question is still whether it concerns complaints after vaccination or because of vaccination,” De Jonge said in a letter to Parliament. “I think it is very important that the Dutch reports are also properly investigated. We must err on the side of caution, which is why it is wise to press the pause button now as a precaution, but only for people under the age of 60.”
All standing appointments for those 59 and under who were to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine will be cancelled, the Ministry of Health said. Those 60 and up will continue to get their shots as the blood clot issues have mostly been reported by younger people, and because older people are at a greater risk of having a more severe case of Covid-19.
The suspension will last at least until Wednesday, when a European Medicines Agency is expected to elaborate on its review of the vaccine’s use and cases of blood clotting. The decision was made in consultation with Lareb, public health agency RIVM, the Medicines Evaluation Board, and the chair of the Dutch Health Council.
Through March 28, the Netherlands received an estimated 885 thousand doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, of which about half have been used.