The Netherlands stops using AstraZeneca vaccine pending side effects research


The Netherlands is to stop using the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for a two week period pending further research into reports about thrombosis from several countries. Denmark, Norway, Ireland and Iceland have already taken a similar decision.

The stoppage will last until Sunday, March 28, the health ministry said on Sunday night. The decision follows recommendations from the Dutch medicines council CBG after the publication of new information about possible side effects from Denmark and Norway, the health ministry said.

The potential problems centre on a rare form of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia, or  abnormally low levels of platelets in the blood, involving several adults under the age of 50. There are no cases known of this type in the Netherlands and, according to the CBG, no link has been established between the problems and the vaccine.

The decision to suspend use of the vaccine means 43,000 vaccination appointments with regional health boards have been cancelled and an unknown number via family doctors. In the Netherlands, health boards are using the vaccine for health service workers while family doctors have been using it on people aged 60 to 64, people with Down’s syndrome and the morbidly obese.

290,000 vaccinations

The government’s coronavirus dashboard suggests 290,000 vaccinations using the AstraZeneca vaccine had been planned in over the coming fortnight.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said that there can be ‘absolutely no doubt’ about the vaccines in use. It is ‘crucial to know if these are complaints which came after vaccination or because of vaccination,’ he said. ‘It is of great importance that these reports are researched properly.’

Earlier on Sunday, AstraZeneca issued a statement saying there is no evidence that people who have been vaccinated have a higher risk of blood clots.

No evidence

‘A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and UK with COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country,’ the company said.

‘So far across the EU and UK, there have been 15 events of DVT and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine, as of 8 March,’ the statement said. ‘This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines.’

The European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam has also said there is no link after fears were first published last week.

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