The Netherlands temporarily halts AstraZeneca vaccinations
The Dutch government and the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) have announced that the Netherlands will not use the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for the next two weeks. Almost 300.000 vaccination appointments have had to be cancelled as a result of the decision.
EMA, AstraZeneca say there's no evidence jab causes thrombosis
The announcement comes after many countries declared they were halting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports that the jab could lead to thrombosis. Denmark was the first to announce the decision last week, with the Danish Health Authority saying there had been reports of “severe cases of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca.”
Since then, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) released a statement in which they declared that there was “no indication that the vaccination has caused these conditions,” and that in spite of the decisions made by countries across Europe, the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks. The EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) is reviewing all the reported cases.
As of March 10, 30 cases of thrombosis have been reported in the European Economic Area, - a figure which the EMA says is no higher than the number seen in the general population - where almost five million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. AstraZeneca has said there is “no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.”
Dutch government halts use of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine
Initially, acting Health Minister Hugo de Jonge had said last week that the AstraZeneca vaccine was considered safe and would continue to be used in the Netherlands. But since then, the Dutch Medicines Authority (MEB) has advised, as a precautionary measure and pending further investigation, to halt vaccinations until March 28.
The government has cited new information as the reason for the change of approach: “[there] are complaints other than the limited number of reports of thrombosis after vaccination... These are serious, rare signs of clot formation (thrombosis) and a reduced number of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) in adults under 50 years of age.” Six new cases were reported in Denmark and Norway over the weekend, but no similar cases have been reported in the Netherlands.
In a statement, De Jonge said “There should be no doubt whatsoever about the vaccines. I think it is very important that the reports are properly investigated. We must always err on the side of caution, which is why it is wise to press the pause button now as a precaution.” The MEB advises anyone who has received the AstraZeneca vaccine to immediately contact their GP if they develop blue spots on their skin or any other unexpected symptoms after three days of being vaccinated.
MEB's advice shouldn't delay government's vaccination plan
The Dutch Association for the Elderly (ANBO) has supported the government’s decision, but have called on De Jonge to investigate whether a redistribution of the vaccine stock could reduce the amount of time that 60 to 65-year-olds will have to wait to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In spite of this two-week suspension, De Jonge is hopeful that the government’s vaccination plan will not be delayed, and expects that the AstraZeneca vaccine will be used again soon: “If we can continue as usual in a few weeks, and I assume that in itself, then it will actually not make much difference with where we were,” he said on Monday morning. He still plans for everyone to receive at least one jab by July.