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AstraZeneca woes continue as the Netherlands halts vaccine

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·4-min read
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The University of Turin has set up a vaccination center for the staff of the two Turin universities.
Vaccinations are done using AstraZeneca after that EMA reconfirmed that the vaccine was safe and effective because, in early March, several European countries temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of some cases of blood clots and low platelet counts. (Photo by Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The British-Swedish company has been plagued by several issues, including a row over vaccine deliveries with the EU as the continent battles with rising infections and reports of blood clotting after people received the shot. Photo: Mauro Ujetto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Netherlands announced that it will temporarily stop inoculating those under the age of 60 with the Oxford/AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine, forcing the cancellation of 10,000 planned vaccinations. 

Initially, announcing the news on Friday, the country said that it would temporarily halt vaccination until 7 April.

However, on Saturday, it delivered another blow, announcing that it will pause all AstraZeneca jabs to avoid waste. 

The decision came after a woman died after receiving the jab, and amid fears over blood clotting issues, the country's health ministry said. 

The Dutch health ministry said that the country "must err on the side of caution" but that the vaccine was "safe" for use. 

"There should be no doubt whatsoever about the safety of vaccines. We must err on the side of caution, so it is wise to press the pause button now as a precaution," health minister, Hugo de Jonge, said.

The Netherlands reported five new cases of blood clotting in women aged between 25 and 65, while the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) identified 30 cases of rare blood clots events out of the 18.1 million doses administered up to 24 March.

So far, seven people among the 30 cases have died in the UK. The cases include 22 reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and eight other thrombosis events with low platelets. 

CVST clots stop blood draining from the brain properly.

Despite the cases, the MHRA has said the benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh any risks and urged the public to continue coming forward for the jab.

Similarly, the European Union's drug regulator declared the vaccine "safe and effective" for use. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the jab does not increase the overall incidence of blood clots.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the Netherlands administered just under 2.4 million doses by 28 March. This is only 12% of the adult population.

WATCH: Regulator says Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 jab is safe after seven UK deaths

Other European countries, including France and Germany have made similar moves as the Netherlands. 

Germany restricted the use of the shot to people over 60 years of age, France has limited its use to those over 55. 

Spain had restricted the vaccine for under-65s, but it reversed its decision, extending the roll-out to those over 65, on Tuesday.

Across the pond, Canada announced last week that it was suspending the use of the jab for under-55s. "There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks," Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization said.

The British-Swedish company has been plagued by several issues, including a row over vaccine deliveries with the EU as the continent battles with rising infections and reports of blood clotting after people received the shot. 

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission (EC) has blamed pharmaceutical firms — primarily AstraZeneca — for not delivering the promised doses to the continent. 

READ MORE: Berlin and Canada suspend AstraZeneca jab

Meanwhile public health experts have said that there is no evidence that the AstraZeneca vaccine is slowing in the UK despite some EU nations temporarily pausing its rollout.

Linda Bauld, professor at Edinburgh University, said: "It doesn't look from the behavioural response, the surveys I've seen, that it's affecting uptake in the UK and that's really important."

She added that all studies indicated the vaccine was safe and effective, while the fact different nations were reviewing their position was a sign that the "system was working."

Last week, Britain announced a third coronavirus vaccine from US firm Moderna (MRNA) will be rolled out in the UK from April and will join the AstraZeneca and Pfizer (PFE)/ BioNtech (BNTX) jabs already being offered on the NHS.

In November, the UK became the first Western country to approve a coronavirus vaccine. So far over 31 million people in the UK have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to official data. Nearly five million people have gotten their second jab.

WATCH: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

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