Denmark becomes first country to permanently stop use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Denmark has become the first country to permanently halt the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine following its possible link to very rare cases of blood clots.

The Danish health authority said on Wednesday that, following its own review, the rollout of the vaccine in the country would continue without the AstraZeneca shotas he warned of a “real risk of serious side effects”.

“Based on the scientific findings, our overall assessment is that there is a real risk of serious side effects associated with the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine,” said DHA chief executive Søren Brostrøm. “We have therefore decided to withdraw the vaccine from our vaccination programme,” he added.

The health agency said it agreed with the European Union medicines regulator Evaluation that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, but noted that the watchdog urged each country to consider its own situation and the availability of the vaccine when making the decision.

Brostrøm said the epidemic is currently under control in Denmark, with much of the elderly population vaccinated and those who have not yet been vaccinated at less risk.

“We have to weigh this against the fact that we now have a known risk of serious adverse reactions from vaccination with AstraZeneca, although the risk in absolute terms is low,” he added.

Those who have already received the first dose of AstraZeneca AZN,
-0.63%

AZN,
-1.65%
will be asked to receive a different vaccine a second time, the health authority said.

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He added that Denmark could reintroduce the use of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company’s vaccine at a later date if the situation in the country changes.

Last week, the UK Government’s Immunization Advisory Committee said people under 30 would be offered an alternative vaccine. It came after Britain’s medicines regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – said the benefits outweighed the risks for most people, but the chief executive of the MHRA Dr June Raine said for young people it was more “finely balanced”.

Denmark’s move is another setback for the EU’s already sluggish vaccination campaign, which was heightened on Tuesday after US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson JNJ,
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said it would be delay the planned deployment of his COVID-19 shot across the 27-member block due to blood clotting reports.

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J&J made the decision after US health agencies called for a immediate pause of vaccine use as they review six serious cases of rare blood clots that have been reported in people who have received the vaccine. J&J was expected to supply 55 million doses of its single-shot vaccine to the EU in the second quarter.

The J&J vaccine has currently only been delayed, but analytics firm Airfinity has warned that the EU vaccine rollout will take two months longer than expected if the block was unable to use the shot at all.

However, there was good news for Europe as the EU reached an agreement to speed up the delivery of an additional 50 million doses of the vaccine jointly developed by German biotech BioNTech BNTX,
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and the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer PFE,
-0.48%
to boost the deployment program.

Denmark’s move could delay the rollout of the vaccine in the country for up to four weeks, based on previous statements from health agencies, a report by Reuters Noted.

The country was the first to initially suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March, over safety concerns. Last week, the European medicines regulator said ‘unusual blood clots’ should be listed as a “very rare” side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but insisted that the benefits of the vaccine still outweighed the risks.

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The majority of EU countries have since resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine, but some countries, including Spain and Italy, have limit use of the vaccine in people over 60 years old. Last month, French and German health authorities restricted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those over 55 and over 60, respectively, following concerns about unusual blood clotting in some recipients.

AstraZeneca shares were trading up 1.31% in London on Wednesday.

AstraZeneca acknowledged the EMA’s findings, along with a separate UK review MHRA, noting that they “reaffirmed that the vaccine provides a high level of protection against all severities of COVID-19 and that these benefits continue to far outweigh the risks.”

The pharmaceutical company said it was working with global regulators to better understand individual cases, epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events.

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