(BBC) – Vaccine safety experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are meeting on Tuesday to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, after a number of countries paused their rollouts.
Countries including France and Germany said they were acting as a precaution amid reports of blood clots in some recipients in Europe.
The WHO says there is no evidence of a link between clots and vaccines.
It has urged countries not to pause their vaccinations.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) – the European Union’s medicines regulator – is also meeting on Tuesday. It has previously said that people can continue receiving the vaccine.
AstraZeneca says a review of 17 million people who received doses in Europe found there were 37 cases of people who had developed blood clots.
Experts say the number of blood clots reported in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population.
What are European countries doing?
A number of countries have temporarily suspended use of the vaccine, including Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
They said they were pausing the rollout following reports of blood clots in some recipients. Blood clots are solid clumps that form in the blood, which can be life threatening if not treated quickly. The countries stressed that it was a precautionary measure.
“This is a professional decision,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said, adding that he was following the recommendation of the country’s vaccine institute.
But several medical experts and politicians in Germany, where infections are rising rapidly, have argued that the vaccine should be used until proven unsafe.
“AstraZeneca is the second most important vaccine for us,” said Christoph Spinner of the Technical University of Munich.
Other countries, including Austria, have halted the use of certain batches of the drug, while Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine said they would continue to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A rise in cases has led many countries to tighten restrictions and there are concerns over the pace of Europe’s vaccination drive, which has already been affected by shortages.
In Italy, the director general of the medicines authority called the decision to suspend the vaccine “political”.
Nicola Magrini told Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica that the vaccine was safe and that the benefit to risk ratio of the jab was “widely positive”.