The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine by several European countries comes at a perilous moment: just as a third virus wave is cresting over the continent and its vaccine rollouts are lagging.
After reports emerged that a handful of people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine had developed fatal brain hemorrhages and blood clots, first Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands temporarily halted their use of it. Then France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden followed suit on Monday and Tuesday.
Now, officials and immunologists throughout Europe worry that suspending one of the continent’s most commonly available vaccines will cost vital time in the race against dangerous, fast-spreading variants. They also fear that vaccine skeptics could be emboldened.
The European Union’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, said on Monday that it would continue to investigate a possible connection between the AstraZeneca shots and blood clots or bleeding in the brain.
has administered 11 million doses of it. The country’s medicines regulator has not reported any concerns about blood clotting for that vaccine or the Pfizer shot. It said in its latest safety report that “the number and nature of suspected adverse reactions reported so far are not unusual in comparison to other types of routinely used vaccines.”
Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said “the decisions by France, Germany and other countries look baffling.” He said that the delay in inoculations, and “the potential for increased vaccine hesitancy,” were not aligned with any new or conclusive data.