Countries across Europe suspend use of Oxford-AstraZeneca jab

Countries across Europe have suspended the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine over concerns the jab may cause blood clots.

Germany, France, Spain and Italy have joined Ireland and the Netherlands in temporarily suspending use of the vaccine, adding to a list of countries concerned about the jab. Norway, Denmark and Bulgaria suspended their programmes last week.

The World Health Organisation and the UK’s health regulator have said the public should still get the jab with Boris Johnson saying the UK’s medicines regulator sees “no reason to discontinue” the vaccine.

Johnson added that the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which approved the vaccine for use on December 30, was one of the “toughest and most experienced” in the world.

The European Medicines Agency said it was investigating instances of blood clots and has called an extraordinary meeting for Thursday “to conclude on the information gathered and any further actions that may need to be taken”.

There have been a small number of reports of people experiencing blood clots in the days and weeks after their vaccination.

In Austria, another person was admitted to hospital with a pulmonary embolism (blockage in arteries in the lungs) after being vaccinated, while one death involving a blood clot was reported in Denmark.

The European suspensions deepen tensions within the EU over the vaccine, after bitter battles with AstraZeneca over delivery shortfalls. The concerns about the jab highlight a divide with countries including the UK and Canada, which continue to use it.

Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, described his country’s move as a “precautionary measure” based on a recommendation from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which advises the government on vaccines.

“We are all aware of the implications of this decision and we didn’t take it lightly,” he said.

He said it was “a technical decision, not a political one”, adding that to “maintain trust in the vaccine, we have to give our experts in Germany and the EU time to check the recent incidents”.