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Coronavirus latest Covid-19 news and updates from around the world

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Boxes of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines in Oss, Netherlands on February 12. Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

The Netherlands has joined a growing list of countries suspending use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine following reports of possible side effects post inoculation.

The Dutch government said Sunday it will pause the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for two weeks “as a precautionary measure and pending further investigation.”

The decision came just days after Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said there was “no cause for concern,” and that vaccinations could continue. In a statement Sunday, the Dutch Health Ministry said its Medicines Evaluations Board (CBG) had received “new information” over the weekend.

The statement said as yet no “causal relationship” has been established between the vaccine and the newly reported side effects from Denmark and Norway, but that it would pause use of the AstraZeneca vaccine until March 29.

“The CBG indicates that a total of six new reports of possible side effects have been received from Denmark and Norway. These are serious, rare signs of clot formation (thrombosis) and a reduced number of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) in adults under age 50,” the statement said, adding that no such cases have yet occurred in the Netherlands.
“The crucial question is whether this is about complaints after vaccination, or caused by vaccination,” De Jonge said in the statement. “There cannot be a single doubt about the vaccines.”

AstraZeneca has robustly defended its vaccine, saying in a statement Sunday there were no confirmed quality issues for any batch of the drug, and “no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia” for people who had received it.

Some context: The Netherlands is the latest European country to partially or fully suspend its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of patients developing blood clots after inoculations.

  • Austria was the first to sound the alarm on the potential dangers of the vaccine, suspending one batch of doses last Tuesday.
  • Italy banned the use of vaccines from a specific batch of AstraZeneca doses last Friday, after a man in Sicily died of cardiac arrest one day after receiving his first dose of the vaccine.
  • Denmark became the first European country to temporarily suspend the entire rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine last Thursday, followed by Iceland, Norway and Ireland.

The European Union’s medicines regulator, the EMA, is currently investigating whether the shot could be linked to a number of reports of blood clots.

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