AstraZeneca says there is “no evidence” its COVID-19 vaccine increases the risk of blood clots, after Ireland joined a number of European countries suspending its use as a precautionary step.
Officials in Ireland and one region of Italy temporarily halted AstraZeneca vaccinations on Sunday following reports of clotting and the death of a teacher in Italy given the COVID-19 jab.
Italy’s Piedmont region announced it was suspending AstraZeneca vaccinations out of “extreme caution” until it finds out if the vaccination is linked to the teacher’s death.
Luigi Genesio Icardi, the northern Italian region’s health commissioner, said the death of the teacher in the town of Biella was Piedmont’s first encounter with a suspected problem with the vaccine.
But hours later, Piedmont officials resumed AstraZeneca vaccinations using different batches, after identifying the one used on the deceased teacher.
Earlier in the day officials in Ireland said they were suspending AstraZeneca vaccinations based on four new reports of “blood clotting events” in Norway.
Ireland later noted a “small number” of blood clots following vaccinations, however the country’s Health Products Regulatory Authority said the reported clots were not of the nature described by officials in Norway.
AstraZeneca responded with a statement saying it had carried out “a careful review” of the available data on those who have received the AstraZeneca jab in Britain and the European Union.
“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” Chief Medical Officer Ann Taylor said in a statement.
“The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety.”
Britain’s medicines regulator also said evidence does not suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine is causing blood clots, according to PA news agency.
Bulgaria, Denmark and Iceland had joined Norway in suspending the vaccine’s use on Thursday while research is conducted into possible health problems.
The halt is expected to further delay Europe’s sluggish vaccine rollout, while critics say it may reduce public trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Friday, Italy’s medicines agency Aifa stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca doses after a soldier died in Sicily. A link between vaccination and death has not yet been established.
On a national level, Italy’s government is sticking with the AstraZeneca vaccine with Health Minister Robert Speranza telling La Repubblica newspaper all vaccines in Italy and Europe are “effective and safe.