Countries in Europe divided over use of AstraZeneca vaccine

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AstraZeneca

dpa/GNA – European countries were divided in their responses to concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Germany and Poland continuing to use the jab, while Bulgaria joined the ranks of those who have temporarily stopped using it.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, criticized the suspension of the use of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in some countries, saying that “the benefit is far greater than the risk.”

Denmark and several other European nations had earlier suspended use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, after reports of severe cases of blood clots in people who had received it.

After consulting experts at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Spahn said he could confidently state there was no noticeable accumulation of thrombosis cases in connection with the vaccination.

The EMA said on Thursday that there is “no indication” at present that vaccination with the shot has caused these conditions, and that in the agency’s view, any benefits outweigh the risks.

The EU medicines regulator said its experts are reviewing 30 officially reported cases of thromboembolic events and “will further communicate as the assessment progresses.”

On Friday, the EMA updated its guidance to say that the AstraZeneca vaccine can cause an allergic reaction in very rare cases.

In Britain, 41 out of about 5 million people had an allergic reaction after receiving the shot, it said. “In at least some of these cases,” there was likely a link to the vaccine, according to the EMA.

A European Commission spokesperson in Brussels backed the EMA’s stance on thrombosis cases on Friday, but noted that vaccination policy ultimately remains at the discretion of EU member states.
The British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm said it had not found evidence of an increased risk of thrombosis in connection with its Covid-19 vaccine.

“An analysis of our safety data of more than 10 million records has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country with Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca,” a spokesman said on Friday.

“In fact, the observed number of these types of events are significantly lower in those vaccinated than would be expected among the general population,” the spokesman added.

Polish officials reached a similar decision to Germany, saying they saw no reason to suspend use of the vaccine.

During a press briefing in Warsaw, citing the EMA’s statements, a Health Ministry spokesperson said the deaths in Austria and Denmark were not associated with people having received the vaccine.
Case numbers are rising in Poland as well as Bulgaria, although officials there temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said use of the vaccine would stop until the EMA ruled on possible side effects.

The decision was prompted by the death of a 57-year-old woman with a number of existing illnesses in the early hours of Friday who had the jab on Thursday afternoon, said Health Minister Kostadin Angelov.

The working diagnosis is that she died of acute heart failure with severe swelling of the lungs, said forensic medical specialist Pavel Timonov. However, a direct link cannot be confirmed or rejected at this point, he said, with more information available within a week.

Angelov said that he expected AstraZeneca to make a clear statement on the matter of side effects. The decision means Bulgaria will only use jabs made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna for the time being.

Bulgaria has recorded 395 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, according to data released on Thursday. As cases rise, the country tightened health regulations in 16 of its 28 regions.

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