On Monday, several European countries including Italy, Germany, and France announced a full stop on the use of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine following reports of serious side effects.
In a statement from German Health Minister Jens Spahn, he said that the country cannot rule out the possible health risks. “This is a professional decision, not a political one,” Sphan clarified. He also cited that the decision came from a recommendation by the Paul Ehrlich Institute.
In addition, France, and Italy have also announced their decision to temporarily halt the AstraZeneca vaccine use pending the approval of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), an organization responsible for acting as the EU medicine regulator.
The decision came after Denmark and Norway reported isolated cases of blood clots, low platelet count, and bleeding which may be possible side effects of the vaccine. In Italy, at least three individuals died after receiving their vaccine shots.
The vaccine which was produced by the United Kingdom’s University of Oxford has reportedly caused 30 cases of blood clots across five million patients.
Other EU countries have followed suit, including Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria, Austria, and the Netherlands. On the other hand, Poland refused to suspend the rollout claiming that the benefits outweigh the risks.
The sudden suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine is especially damaging for the EU as they are experiencing their third wave of Covid-19 and a vaccine shortage.
In fact, the region saw its highest number of COVID-19 cases since February as its members struggled to contain the situation. In Italy alone, the country reported 27,000 new cases of Covid-19, all in a single day.
The country’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi confirmed that the situation has grown increasingly worse. “More than a year after the start of the health emergency, we are unfortunately facing a new wave of infections,” Draghi said.
Paris also shared a similar situation. According to health minister Olivier Véran, “Every 12 minutes night and day, a Parisian is admitted to an intensive care bed.”
To make matters worse, it would take more than a year for the region to vaccinate 75 percent of its population, longer than most countries such as the U.S., and Canada.
Despite reports of possible side effects, the World Health Organization advised countries not to suspend its use. In a statement, the WHO clarified, “As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus.”
A representative from Oxford University, Peter Drobac also assured users that the vaccine had gone under “rigorous” clinical trials. He also noted that during the clinical tests, researchers did not receive any reports of blood clots as a possible side effect.
Even U.K Prime Minister, Borris Johnson, continued to defend the vaccine’s safety saying, “In the MHRA we have one of the toughest and most experienced regulators in the world. They see no reason at all to discontinue the vaccination program… for either of the vaccines that we’re currently using.”
Other researchers, including Michael Head from the University of Southampton, believed that the decision to suspend vaccine roll-out might increase “vaccine hesitancy,” adding that there is no substantial data to support the government’s decision.