(EURO NEWS) – Finland has become the latest Scandinavian country to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine – despite the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluding it was “safe and effective”.
The country’s public health authority said the jab would be halted “until there is more information and a possible causality can be assessed”.
Dozens of European countries had suspended the vaccine amid reports of blood clots.
Some, such as Italy, Germany and Spain indicated they would restart AstraZeneca vaccinations after the EMA’s safety review on Thursday.
But Norway, Sweden and Denmark said they would not be lifting their suspensions.
All three countries said they were reviewing the EMA verdict that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks following 25 reports of rare but serious blood clots in Europe.
France’s health authority said on Friday that vaccinations could restart, but only in people over the age of 55, citing serious cases of rare blood clots in young people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine as the reason why.
Geir Bukholm, the director of the Division of Infection Control at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health, said the vaccination pause would continue in Norway.
“Due to the several serious cases in Norway, we want to thoroughly review the situation before we make a conclusion,” he said. “This will take some time, and we will provide an update at the end of next week.”
Sweden’s public health agency said their national regulator was investigating cases of blood clots in the country.
“[We] hope that next week we will be able to decide how best to use this vaccine in the future,” said Swedish epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
In Denmark, the health authority said that there were “observed cases of severe but rare blood clots after vaccination with the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca.”
They will hold a press conference on Friday to answer questions about the vaccine but will continue to pause vaccinations as they review EMA’s assessment in the coming days.
Earlier on Thursday, a Norwegian medical team said there was a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots.
“We have obtained results which may explain the clinical course of our hospitalised patients,” said Pål André Holme, a professor of haematology at Oslo University Hospital, a few hours before the EMA briefing.
“These patients had a powerful immune response which led to the formation of antibodies which can affect the platelets and thus lead to a blood clot,” he said, stating that he did not see any other possibility but that it was linked to the vaccine.
Norway, where some 120,000 people received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has had six cases of serious side effects, two of which were fatal.
There were a total of 25 reported cases of rare blood clots in people vaccinated in the EU, according to EMA, of which nine people died, according to France’s health authority.
“Almost all of these cases occurred in people under the age of 55, and in a majority of women,” the French health authority’s opinion said.
There have been three reported cases in France including a 26-year-old who developed disseminated intravascular coagulation (blood clots throughout the body) and a 51-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman who had low platelets in the blood, which are necessary to help the blood clot.
Some of the first reported cases were in Austria where a 49-year-old woman died of multiple blood clots and a 35-year-old woman was hospitalised with a pulmonary embolism.
The UK’s regulator said there were five such reports in the country but that “this has been reported in less than 1 in a million people vaccinated so far in the UK, and can also occur naturally – a causal association with the vaccine has not been established.”