Denmark has suspended use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution amid reports of blood clotting in some people who have received it.
The Danish health authority said that there was a reported death in the country but that “at present, it cannot be concluded whether there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”
Use of the vaccine will be suspended until further notice, the health authority said on Thursday, but the decision will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.
It comes after Austria suspended a batch of the vaccines following the death of a woman due to multiple blood clots and the hospitalisation of another person with a blockage in the arteries of the lungs.
The vaccine batch, which comprised of one million doses, was subsequently suspended in four other EU countries as a precaution.
The European Medicines Agency said they were reviewing the incidents as well as all other “conditions related to blood clots” but a preliminary review suggested there was no “specific issue” with the batch.
As of Tuesday, the medicines regulator said, there were 22 cases of blood clotting reported among the three million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the European Economic Area.
“We are in the middle of the largest and most important vaccination rollout in Danish history. And right now we need all the vaccines we can get. Therefore, putting one of the vaccines on pause is not an easy decision,” said Søren Brostrøm, Director General of the Danish Health Authority.
“But precisely because we vaccinate so many, we also need to respond with timely care when there is knowledge of possible serious side effects. We need to clarify this before we can continue to use the vaccine from AstraZeneca.”
The change means that people who have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Denmark will have to wait before they receive the second dose, the health authority said.
Frontline health staff aged 65 or over will continue to receive vaccination appointments with one of the other two vaccines, they specified.
The authority said they are not opting out of the AstraZeneca vaccine but just putting it on hold.
“There is good evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective,” Brostrøm said.
“But both we and the Danish Medicines Agency have to react to reports of possible serious side effects, both from Denmark and other European countries. It shows that the monitoring system works.”
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been the focus of much attention and many news headlines in EU countries over the last few months. Earlier this year, before it was approved in the European Union, the company said that they would not be able to deliver promised doses to member states in the first quarter of the year.
The announcement sparked a bitter row with the European Commission, prompting the EU to issue a new export regulation on coronavirus vaccines.
After the vaccine’s approval, some countries then said they would not recommend it for older individuals citing a lack of information about individuals over the age of 65 in the trial. However, the European Medicines Agency recommended authorising the vaccine for anyone over the age of 18.