Why is there concern over the AstraZeneca jab?
Italy, France and Germany have become the latest European countries to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca jab after a flurry of European nations announced temporary halts to their programmes last week.
Austria was the first to sound the alarm after it reported that a person was diagnosed with blood clots and died 10 days after they had received the vaccination. Another was hospitalised with pulmonary embolism (blockage in arteries in the lungs) after being vaccinated.
Then Denmark announced that someone had died after receiving the jab and became the first country to suspend its AstraZeneca programme.
This prompted other countries, including Norway, the Netherlands and Ireland to follow suit. Thailand also suspended its programme but has now restarted it, as has Australia.
At a press conference Jens Spahn, German health minister, said the decision to suspend vaccinations “was not an easy one for us. It is purely a precautionary measure. It is now important to check whether the benefits of the vaccination outweigh the risks.
“We are all very aware of the implications of this decision,” he said.
Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Lithuania have stopped vaccinations but only from one specific batch of one million doses sent to 17 countries.
What do the experts say about the link between the vaccine and blood clots?
Both the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have said there is no evidence there is any link between the vaccine and blood clots and have urged countries to continue using it.
The EMA’s safety committee is reviewing the jab but in a statement the agency said: “There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine. 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.”
What is the advice in the UK?
The Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the UK’s drugs regulator, has also said it is reviewing the reports but, “given the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause”.
Dr Phil Bryan, vaccines safety lead at the agency, said: “People should still go and get their Covid-19 vaccine when asked to do so.”