Germany, France, Italy and Spain became the latest countries to suspend use of the vaccine even as a third wave of the pandemic threatens the continent.
ROME — As a third wave of the pandemic crashes over Europe, questions about the safety of one of the continent’s most commonly available vaccines led Germany, France, Italy and Spain to temporarily halt its use on Monday. The suspensions created further chaos in inoculation rollouts even as new coronavirus variants continue to spread.
The decisions followed reports that a handful of people who had received the vaccine, made by AstraZeneca, had developed fatal brain hemorrhages and blood clots.
The company has strongly defended its vaccine, saying that there is “no evidence” of increased risk of blood clots or hemorrhages among the more than 17 million people who have received the shot in the European Union and the United Kingdom.
“The safety of all is our first priority,” AstraZeneca said in a statement Monday. “We are working with national health authorities and European officials and look forward to their assessment later this week.”
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.”
Among the millions of people who have received the AstraZeneca shot in Britain, 14 reported cases of deep vein thrombosis and 13 reported cases of a pulmonary embolism, conditions that can both be caused by blood clots. Only one of those people died. There were 35 reported cases of thrombocytopenias, a condition involving a low blood platelet count. That also led to one death.
“We are closely reviewing reports but the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause,” Dr. Phil Bryan with a British regulatory agency said in a statement.
The World Health Organization signed off on the safety of the vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford in partnership with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s regulatory authority, also approved its use, after monitoring some five million vaccinations already administered across the continent. Its guidance as of Monday remained the same.
Norwegian authorities held a news conference Monday to explain their earlier decision to suspend using the vaccine.
They said a 50-year-old patient who had died was in good health before she received the vaccine, but then suffered a fatal “intracerebral hemorrhage”
Another health care worker who died on Friday was described as being in her thirties, and dying of the same cause 10 days after receiving a shot.