Netherlands officially stops use of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for people under 60
The Dutch government confirmed on Thursday that it would no longer use the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 for people under the age of 60 out of concern that it was tied to several cases of severe blood clotting within three weeks of injection. In making that decision, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said he was following the advice of the country’s Health Council by extending the suspension ordered last week, even though the European Medicines Agency said the vaccine could be safely used.
For the time being, people under 60 will be offered something other than the AstraZeneca vaccine. De Jonge claimed that the decision will not derail the country’s vaccination plan. The minister repeated that any adult who wants a first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine will be able to get one by the beginning of July, though the Netherlands has not yet been able to administer a half-million injections in a single calendar week.
This will change from next month, he claimed, when the country will be able to administer 2.5 million jabs per week. Though the AstraZeneca vaccine will no longer be used by a majority of the country’s 14.4 million adult residents, nearly eight million vaccine doses from Pfizer/BioNTech will likely be delivered before the summer, as well as three million doses from Johnson & Johnson. The latter requires only one shot, while the other approved vaccines require two.
The AstraZeneca vaccine will still be offered to people born in 1960 or earlier. The ministry also said that anyone who was given a first dose of the vaccine can still receive a second dose because, globally, no serious side effects have yet been reported after a second injection.
“It is a trade-off between, on the one hand, the health benefits of a vaccine and thus protection against coronavirus, and, on the other hand, health risks, especially for younger women as the result of a very rare side effect,” De Jonge said. The priority order in which people are vaccinated will not change.
The ministry said that the Health Council’s advice pointed out “that the risk of health damage as a result of COVID-19 in people over 60 is many times greater than the risk of the very rare reported side effect of severe thrombosis with a low platelet count.” Most side effects have also been reported in people under the age of 60, the statement continued.
Eight cases of thrombosis accompanied by low platelet counts have been reported in the Netherlands in female patients who were given the AstraZeneca vaccine. One of those cases ended in the patient’s death. Each of the eight was between the ages of 23 and 65, and developed the blood clots between seven and 20 days after vaccination.
Though the ministry was criticized for not involving thrombosis experts when it decided last week to largely suspend use of the vaccine, it said experts in thrombosis and medicinal side effects were included in discussions with the Health Council this week. The ministry had asked the council to prepare urgent advice for the Cabinet once the European Medicines Agency issued its determination that there was a probable link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and thrombosis with a low platelet count.
Still, the EMA estimated that the serious condition was experienced by fewer than .001 percent of the vaccine’s recipients. Thus, it concluded that the benefits of preventing Covid-19 outweighed the risk of a rare, yet troubling side effect. “Germany, Italy and Spain have also decided to continue with AstraZeneca injections in people over the age of 60,” the ministry said.