The Netherlands halts use of AstraZeneca jab for the under-60s

Hugo de Jonge explains the government's decision to reporters. Photo: Laurens van Putten ANP / HH
Hugo de Jonge explains the government’s decision to reporters. Photo: Laurens van Putten ANP / HH

The Netherlands will no longer vaccinate people under the age of 60 with the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine because of the health risks, caretaker health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Thursday evening.

The minister’s decision is in line with recommendations by the national health council Gezondheidsraad, which rushed out its advice following publication of the European Medicine’s Agency’s position on Wednesday.

De Jonge said the decision had been taken following reports of eight cases of thrombosis in younger women who had been given the AstraZeneca vaccine. One woman died.

Nevertheless, the EMA said on Wednesday that although there may be a link between a rare form of thrombosis and the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, the advantages of the vaccine outweigh the disadvantages.

Despite this, the health council recommended not using the vaccine on people under the age of 60 because they have a higher risk of side effects. Germany, Italy and Spain have taken a similar decision, the health ministry said.

The impact of the decision on the Dutch vaccination programme is still being worked out,  but the Netherlands will stick to the vaccination order already agreed, De Jonge said.

‘I still aim to ensure that by mid May everyone over the age of 60 and people with risky health conditions have had their first vaccination, and that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have had a jab at least once at the beginning of July,’ De Jonge said.

The EMA said on Wednesday that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should now be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria, as the AstraZeneca vaccine is now known, the EMA said.

The EMA said it had come to this conclusion after looking at ‘all currently available evidence, including the advice from an ad hoc expert group.’ In total, the EMA experts looked at 86 cases across Europe, of which 18 were fatal. Some 34 million people in Europe have so far been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca product.

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