LONDON: Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine over concerns about patients developing post-jab blood clots, even as the manufacturer and Europe's medicines watchdog insisted the vaccine was safe.
Denmark was first to announce its suspension, "following reports of serious cases of blood clots" among people who had received the vaccine, including in one who died.’’ However, the Danish Health authority cautiously added that "it has not been determined yet that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots".
As of March 9, 22 cases of blood clots had been reported among more than three million people vaccinated in the European Economic Area, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.
Austria announced on Monday that it had suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a 49-year-old nurse died of "severe blood coagulation problems" days after receiving an anti-Covid shot.
Four other European countries -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg -- have also suspended the use of vaccines from this batch, which was sent to 17 European countries and consisted of one million jabs.
"This is a super-cautious approach based on some isolated reports in Europe," said Stephen Evans, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "The risk and benefit balance is still very much in favour of the vaccine," he said.
AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company which developed the vaccine with Oxford University, defended the safety of its product. "The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well tolerated," a spokesman for the group told AFP.
Britain, whose widely-praised vaccine rollout has been largely underpinned by the AstraZeneca jab, also defended it as "both safe and effective".