Major EU countries halt use of AstraZeneca shot citing blood clots

At least 10 European countries have halted the use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot following reports of blood clots in some recipients.

Austria was the first to cease the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 7. Last week, Denmark, Iceland and Norway took the cue.

And just yesterday, March 15, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, were quoted by the AP as having suspended all use of the vaccine even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) allayed fears on use of the shot saying there was no scientific evidence linking the severe side effects of blood clots alleged by health authorities from these countries. WHO notes that the underlying benefits of vaccination outweigh the current risks.

Vaccine safety experts are set to meet today in the UK to review the safety concerns raised on the AstraZeneca shot and give a way forward by Thursday.

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Italy has also announced a temporary ban on the AstraZeneca shot, as did Portugal and Slovenia. Britain and Canada stand by the vaccine for now even as AstraZeneca readies filling for US authorization of the shot in the coming weeks.

Kenya received 1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot on March 3 and a further donation of 100,000 doses of the vaccine were received from India on March 11.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, over 9,000 frontline workers have received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot and others are expected to receive it in the coming weeks on voluntary basis.

AstraZeneca said there have been 37 reported cases of blood clots out of over 17 million people, who have received the shot in the 27-country European Union and Britain.

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The European drug maker added that there is no evidence that the shot predisposes people to an increased risk of blood clots.

Once formed, blood clots can travel through the veins and cause heart attacks, strokes as well as fatal blockages in the lungs.

Dring the AstraZeneca drug trial phase — which established that shot was safe and effective — the common side effects were minor pain at the point of injection, fevers and fatigue. 

The AstraZeneca shot is a key plank the UN-backed project known as COVAX that seeks to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries across the world.

That COVAX program continues unaffected by the suspension of the AstraZeneca shot by some countries in Europe.

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