Sweden is latest country to pause use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
BERLIN - Sweden on Tuesday became the latest country to pause use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as European regulators review safety data following reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients.
The company and international regulators continue to say the vaccine is safe, however, and many countries elsewhere in the world are forging ahead with their vaccination campaigns.
The European Medicines Agency plans to meet Thursday to review experts’ findings on the vaccine and decide whether action needs to be taken. The agency has so far said that the benefits of receiving the shot outweigh the risk of side effects.
The Swedish Public Health Agency said Tuesday that it would suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine pending the results of the EMA meeting. Germany, France, Italy and Spain were among countries that suspended use of the vaccine on Monday.
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"The decision is a precautionary measure," Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said in a statement.
Also Tuesday, the German government said it would postpone until after the EMA meeting a virtual summit of state governors called to review the country’s vaccination efforts. The summit had been scheduled for Wednesday,
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of three authorized for use on the European continent. But escalating concern about the shot has created another setback for the European Union’s vaccination drive, which has been plagued by shortages and other hurdles and is lagging far behind the efforts in Britain and the U.S.
AstraZeneca said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of blood clots. There have been 37 reports of blood clots among the more than 17 million people who have received the vaccine across the EU and Britain, the company said.
"This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines," AstraZeneca said.
Much of Asia has shrugged off concerns about the AstraZeneca jab, with Thailand’s prime minister receiving a shot Tuesday as the country started rolling out the vaccine.
"There are people who have concerns," Prayuth Chan-ocha said after his vaccination. "But we must believe doctors, believe in our medical professionals."
Thailand was the first country outside Europe to temporarily suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But health authorities later decided to go ahead with it, with Prayuth and members of his Cabinet receiving the first shots.
Indonesia suspended use of the vaccine on Monday, saying it was waiting for a full report from the World Health Organization regarding possible side effects.
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AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.