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Germany, France, Italy Suspend Use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine

Countries join others in pausing shots after a small number of cases of blood clotting on the continent

Germany, Italy, France and Spain joined the ranks of European countries that have temporarily halted use of the Covid-19 shot made by AstraZeneca AZN 0.72% PLC over blood-clot concerns, dealing another blow to the continent’s sluggish vaccination rollout and threatening the credibility of the vaccine itself.

A cascade of cautionary pauses that started last week picked up Monday. Denmark was the first to suspend the shots. Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands and Iceland have also said they would wait for Europe’s bloc-wide medicines regulator to investigate a small number of serious blood-clotting issues among people who had received the AstraZeneca shot.

That regulator, the European Medicines Agency, is expected by Thursday to give its verdict on safety and potential risks from a review of the reported cases.

The Associated Press reports:

A cascading number of European countries — including Germany, France, Italy and Spain — suspended use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and international regulators say there is no evidence the shot is to blame.

AstraZeneca’s formula is one of three vaccines in use on the continent. But the escalating concern is another setback for the European Union’s vaccination drive, which has been plagued by shortages and other hurdles and is lagging well behind the campaigns in Britain and the U.S.

The EU’s drug regulatory agency called a meeting for Thursday to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca shot and decide whether action needs to be taken.

The furor comes as much of Europe is tightening restrictions on schools and businesses amid surging cases of COVID-19.

Germany’s health minister said the decision to suspend AstraZeneca shots was taken on the advice of the country’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation into seven cases of clots in the brains of people who had been vaccinated.

“Today’s decision is a purely precautionary measure,” Jens Spahn said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his country will likewise stop dispensing the vaccine until at least Tuesday afternoon. Italy also announced a temporary ban, as did Spain, Portugal and Slovenia.

Other countries that have done so over the past few days include Denmark, which was the first, as well as Ireland, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Congo and Bulgaria. Canada and Britain are standing by the vaccine for now.

In the coming weeks, AstraZeneca is expected to apply for U.S. authorization of its vaccine. The U.S. now relies on Pfizer’s, Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s shots.