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EU countries resume AstraZeneca vaccine as Scandinavia keeps jab on hold

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Earlier this week, around a dozen European countries had suspended the use of the jab after reports of an extremely rare form of blood clot occurring in the brain. Photo: Massimo Pinca/Reuters
Earlier this week, around a dozen European countries had suspended the use of the jab after reports of an extremely rare form of blood clot occurring in the brain. Photo: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Several European countries have restarted the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine after the EU medicines regulator deemed it “safe and effective” for use on Thursday night.

However, a number of Scandinavian countries have decided to keep the jab on hold amid blood clotting concerns.

Germany, Italy and Spain were among the countries to resume the rollout, along with Portugal, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

Earlier this week, around a dozen European countries had suspended the use of the jab after reports of an extremely rare form of blood clot occurring in the brain.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded on Thursday that the benefits of the jab outweighed the possible risks, but that it would continue to study possible links between rare blood clots and the vaccine.

Around 5 million Europeans have already received the AstraZeneca jab so far.

AstraZeneca shares were steady on Friday on the back of the news. Chart: Yahoo Finance
AstraZeneca shares were steady on Friday on the back of the news. Chart: Yahoo Finance

Denmark, Norway and Sweden, however, said they will continue to analyse the vaccine’s possible role in a number of deaths caused by blood clotting.

Sweden said it will make a decision about its paused rollout next week, while the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said it would take a decision after it gets a “full picture of the situation”.

One health worker in Norway died on Sunday after being hospitalised with bleeding and low level of blood platelet symptoms.

Soren Brostrom, head of the Danish Health Authority, told reporters on Friday: "We need time to get to the bottom of this."

Finland, which had not previously suspended the vaccine, announced it would halt the use of the AstraZeneca shot while investigating two suspected cases of blood clots.

WATCH: Europe resumes AstraZeneca jabs, US to hit 100 million vaccines

France's regulator also said on Friday that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be only given to people aged 55 and over.

In a bid to boost public confidence in the AstraZeneca jab, French prime minister Jean Castex, aged 55, received the vaccine live on television on Friday.

After getting the jab at a military hospital in Saint-Mande, near Paris, Castex said: "I absolutely did not feel a thing, even if I'll be honest with you, I'm a bit sensitive to this."

READ MORE: EU regulator declares AstraZeneca vaccine 'safe and effective'

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is also set to receive his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after reassuring the public it was "safe."

The PM, 56, has urged people to get inoculated, adding that England's roadmap out of lockdown was "on track".

Britain’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, also said the evidence did not suggest that the AstraZeneca vaccine caused blood clots, but it was also still investigating a very rare and specific type of blood clot in cerebral veins.

In a statement on Monday, AstraZeneca said there was no evidence of an increased risk of clotting due to the vaccine.

The company said that across the EU and the United Kingdom there had been 15 events of deep-vein thrombosis and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among more than 17 million people vaccinated.

Ann Taylor, the firm's chief medical officer, said on Monday: “Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population.”

She added: "The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety."

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