Doctors and experts react to government suspension of AstraZeneca vaccine
The Dutch government recently announced that it was temporarily halting the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine due to concerns that the jab could cause thrombosis.
While both the European Medicines Agency and AstraZeneca have said there is no evidence that the vaccine led to an increased risk of thrombosis, doctors and medical experts across the Netherlands have had mixed responses to the government’s decision.
Dutch GPs and healthcare organisations supportive - but concerned
The National General Practitioners Association (LHV) has issued a statement in which it announces its support for the government’s controversial decision: “It's good to have a two-week break. GPs get questions from their patients and want to have a clear story.” The LHV has said it doesn’t want to speculate about the potential risks the vaccine poses, but that the decision to halt the use of AstraZeneca is sensible.
Healthcare organisation AztiZ, on the other hand, has said that while it understands the government’s decision to err on the side of caution, it remains concerned about what impact the decision could have on employees in the Dutch healthcare system, specifically those working in residential care. “They were ready for the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said a spokesperson for the organisation. “It is, of course, important that these employees are vaccinated as soon as possible, especially now that the number of infections is rising again and the third wave is hanging over the sector.”
Medical experts critical of Dutch government's decision
In contrast to the response from GPs, a number of professors and medical experts have criticised the government’s decision. Professor emeritus of vaccinology Ben van der Zeijst has said that thrombosis is a common condition, and that he does not see a correlation between the prevalence of thrombosis and the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology Frits Rosendaal has also voiced his confusion: “This is motivated more by caution than by reason. Nearly 290.000 appointments have been cancelled. This will certainly include individuals that will soon become ill due to corona.”
The Netherlands Pharmacovigilance Centre Lareb, which investigates and identifies the potential risks of various drugs and medicines, announced on Tuesday that it had found no evidence of a link between blood clotting and the vaccine: “The reports so far give no reason to think that thrombosis is a side effect of corona vaccines," said the centre.
Impact of AstraZeneca suspension on coronavirus vaccination in the Netherlands
In addition to concerns that the Dutch government might be overreacting to the supposed health risks, many are asking questions about the effect this suspension could have on coronavirus vaccinations in the Netherlands and the government’s vaccination plan.
The RIVM has said that additional vaccination appointments will be scheduled once the AstraZeneca jab has been confirmed safe. The GGD wants to use the injections that will be available to speed up the backlog at the end of March, and has said there are enough members of staff across the various vaccination locations to make this happen. Acting Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has also said that the two-week suspension should not have a (significant) impact on the national vaccination campaign.