Netherlands halts use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/FILE PHOTO

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands on Sunday joined a fast-growing list of countries suspending use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine after reports of unexpected possible side effects from the injection.

The vaccine will not be used until at least March 29 as a precaution, the Dutch government said in a statement.

The announcement will lead to delays in rolling out shots in the Netherlands, which had pre-ordered 12 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

Health authorities had scheduled around 290,000 AstraZeneca injections in the coming two weeks.

The move, which follows a similar decision by Ireland earlier in the day, is based on reports from Denmark and Norway of possible serious side effects, the government said.

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Three health workers in Norway who had recently received the vaccine were being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots, and a low count of blood platelets, Norwegian health authorities said on Saturday.

No such cases had been found yet in the Netherlands, the Dutch Health ministry said, adding there was no proof yet of a direct link between the vaccine and the reports from Denmark and Norway.

“We can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine,” Dutch Health minister Hugo de Jonge said.

“We have to make sure everything is right, so it is wise to pause for now.”

AstraZeneca said on Sunday a review of safety data of people vaccinated with its COVID-19 vaccine has shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

Late last week, the Dutch government said there was no reason to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine, as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was no indication it could cause blood clots.

But Mr. De Jonge said his decision was informed by new reports, which would now be investigated by the EMA.

Along with Denmark, Norway, and Ireland, Iceland has also suspended the use of the vaccine over clotting issues, while Thailand became the first country outside of Europe to do so on Friday.

Italy’s northern region of Piedmont on Sunday said it would stop using a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a teacher died following his vaccination on Saturday. Austria also stopped using a particular batch last week. — Reuters

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