Spain has become the latest European country to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for at least a fortnight, after identifying one suspicious blood clot case that could be linked to the vaccine.
Maria Jesus Lamas, Head of the Spanish Agency of Medicines said “This weekend, our risk evaluation changed. We became aware of one case of cerebral venous thrombosis in Spain, which was accompanied by a reduction of platelets, implying an irregular activation of coagulation.”
She continued “We didn’t think much as it was one case, but on Saturday night, we heard of three cases in Norway. Germany also identified four cases. Since we couldn’t discard the biological plausibility of this type of thrombosis being caused by the vaccine, we thought it needed more review.”
Officials have insisted that the number of blood clotting cases has however been extremely low and said that the population should remain calm.
“There are very few cases like this -- 11 out of 17 million vaccines administered -- but we think it’s prudent to cautiously pause the vaccine until we have an evaluation of the cases, risk and identify if there are groups or risk factors that could be more associated with these events,” said Lamas.
Health Minister Carolina Darias also spoke out about the decision to halt the use of the vaccine saying “We have decided to temporarily suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution for at least the next two weeks.”
This follows similar moves by Italy, Germany and France.
A meeting will be held by the European Medicines Agency on Thursday to decide on “further actions” over the vaccine, but have said they do believe that the British-Swedish jab is safe to use.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday that countries should continue using the vaccine after several governments ceased rollouts because of blood clot fears.
WHO Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathan said at a press briefing “We do not want people to panic and we would, for the time being, recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca.”
She stressed that no causal link has been established between the vaccine and clotting.
“So far, we do not find an association between these events and the vaccine,” she continued, highlighting the fact that some blood clot cases among the general population were to be expected.
She also said that when observing those who had the vaccine, the frequency “is in fact, less than what you would expect in the general population at the same time.”
Her statement came as a growing number of countries chose to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, indicating blood clot cases in people who had received the jab.
The United Nations (UN) agency has said that its vaccine safety experts are currently taking a look at AstraZeneca data.