Denmark suspends the use of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine

The Oxford AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine.

Karwai Tang | Getty Images

LONDON – Denmark, Norway and Iceland announced on Thursday that they will temporarily stop using the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

The Danish health authority said it would temporarily suspend the use of the shot in its vaccination program “following reports of severe cases of blood clots in people vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine”.

“With this in mind, the European Medicines Agency has launched an investigation into the AstraZeneca vaccine. One report relates to a death in Denmark. It cannot currently be concluded whether the vaccine is related to the blood clots.” Authority said in a statement.

No information was provided about the number of reports of blood clots or where they came from.

Later on Thursday, both Iceland and Norway made similar announcements.

Local media reported that Thailand was also delaying rollout and had plans to vaccinate Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cabinet with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The prime minister should be the country’s first recipient and should be vaccinated on Friday morning, according to local media.

The announcements come after a similar move in Austria earlier this week, where authorities are investigating one person’s death and another person’s illness after receiving doses of the vaccine.

AstraZeneca’s shares in the London market were down 2.5% on Thursday. Oxford University would not comment on the announcement when contacted by CNBC.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said the company was aware of a statement by the Danish health authority that it is investigating possible adverse effects of the vaccine.

“Patient safety is a top priority for AstraZeneca. Regulators have clear and strict standards of efficacy and safety for the approval of new drugs, including the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. The safety of the vaccine has been thoroughly investigated in Phase III clinical trials. Review data confirms the vaccine is generally well tolerated, “AstraZeneca said in a statement to CNBC.

Soren Brostrom, director of the National Health Agency in Denmark, insisted the 14-day suspension was a precautionary measure during the investigation.

“It is important to emphasize that we did not decide against the AstraZeneca vaccine, we are putting it on hold. There is good evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective. But both we and the Danish Medicines Agency have to respond to reports of possible serious side effects from both Denmark and other European countries, “he said.

Austria concerns

Austrian health authorities suspended the use of batch ABV5300 of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a person was diagnosed with multiple thrombosis (formation of blood clots in blood vessels) and died 10 days after vaccination. Another person was hospitalized with pulmonary embolism after vaccination.

“The latter is now recovering,” said the European Medicines Agency on Wednesday.

However, the EMA added that “there is currently no evidence that vaccination caused these conditions that are not listed as side effects with this vaccine.”

The agency found that the same batch of ABV5300 had been shipped to 17 EU countries and included 1 million doses of the vaccine.

“Some EU countries have also suspended this batch as a precautionary measure while a full investigation is in progress. Although a quality defect is considered unlikely at this point, the batch quality will be investigated,” said the EMA.

It added that its safety committee was reviewing the issue and “investigated the cases reported with the batch, as well as all other cases of thromboembolic events and other blood clot-related conditions post-vaccination.”

“The information available so far shows that the number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than in the general population.”

As of March 9, “22 cases of thromboembolic events have been reported among the 3 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in the European Economic Area,” the EMA said.

Also on Thursday, the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, and the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi agreed that there was no evidence of a link between the vaccine and the blood clots. Von der Leyen said the European Medicines Agency has launched “another accelerated review,” according to Reuters.

Trust in the UK and the EU

In late clinical studies, the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot was found to have an average of 70% effectiveness in protecting against the virus. A recent study by Oxford researchers found that the Covid vaccine was 76% effective at preventing symptomatic infection for three months after a single dose and that the effectiveness rate actually increased with a longer interval between the first and second dose.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is widely used in the launch of vaccination in the UK and the European Union.

The UK has so far vaccinated more than 22 million people with a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and is currently only using footage from AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech.

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