Denmark announced it is permanently halting the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in its country’s vaccination campaign, becoming the first nation to completely halt usage of the brand. The decision followed confirmation by Danish health authorities that the company’s adenovirus vector was linked to severe cases of blood clotting, with one case resulting in death of the recipient.
As a result of the ban on AstraZeneca, Denmark now expects to complete its vaccination scheme six weeks later than originally anticipated. According to the Director-General of the Danish Health Authority, Soren Brostrom, investigation into incidents of blood clots following AstraZeneca’s jab showed “real and serious side effects.”
Denmark will ban the vaccine for all ages. Brostrom said the decision was a difficult one to make, but given that Denmark had other vaccines available and the pandemic is not currently severe in the country, authorities went ahead with the decision.
“The upcoming target groups for vaccination are less likely to become severely ill from Covid-19…We must weigh this against the fact that we now have a known risk of severe adverse effects from vaccination with AstraZeneca, even if the risk in absolute terms is slight,” Brostrom said in a statement.
However, Danish authorities said they have not ruled out using their AstraZeneca doses in the future.
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Denmark’s Head of Medicine, Tanja Erichson, dramatically fainted during a press conference while making the announcement, triggering unconfirmed speculation online that the event occurred due to taking the vaccine herself. Erichson was taken to hospital, and the agency later tweeted that she had recovered.
Studies have apparently shown that the blood clots affect around 1 in 40,000 recipients, which is higher than experts anticipated. Two cases of such blood clots have been reported in the country, with one, a 60-year-old woman, dead.
Around a million of Denmark’s 5.6 million citizens have been vaccinated. Of these, approximately 150,000 were given the AstraZeneca vaccine. Almost 77 percent have been administered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while about 7.8 percent have received Moderna’s variant.
Denmark first temporarily suspended AstraZeneca due to the blood clot issue in March. It has also halted the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of the same concerns.
Several other European nations are also considering or are in the process of halting distribution of AstraZeneca. In Norway, the country’s public health institute advised its government to ditch the company’s product.
Geir Bukholm, Director of Infection Control at Norway’s National Institute of Public Health, pointed out that the connection between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots is now confirmed by more data, which reaffirms the view that the shot must be removed from the country’s vaccination campaign.
The institute predicted that such a move will delay Norway’s overall vaccine rollout by around two weeks. Bukholm said that it was not an easy recommendation to make, but believes it is necessary. Those who have already received their first AstraZeneca dose will receive a second dose from another manufacturer.
In Germany, the distribution of AstraZeneca for people under the age of 60 was already blocked on March 30.
Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek gave his opinion that this approach would provide citizens who seek vaccination a good level of protection. The 66-year-old German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently received her first shot of AstraZeneca, according to a public relations announcement to promote vaccine acceptance on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the EU Commission is said to have decided not to renew contracts with the adenovirus vector manufacturers, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, once they expire for the current year. Instead, Brussels is apparently more interested in COVID-19 vaccines, which use mRNA, such as those developed by Moderna and Pfizer.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen revealed that Pfizer has agreed to increase production to deliver an additional 50 million doses to EU nations by the end of June.