Denmark extends suspension of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot amid doubts

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Denmark on Thursday suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shots for another three weeks pending further investigation into a potential link between the vaccine and rare cases of blood clots.

Denmark was among the first countries in Europe to suspend the use of the vaccine this month after the cases were reported.

Most countries that enforced temporary suspensions have now resumed administering it following recommendations from the European Union’s drug watchdog and the World Health Organization (WHO).

But Danish authorities said they still could not rule out a connection between the vaccine and the very unusual illness in two local cases still being analysed as well as cases elsewhere in Europe.

“Our basis for making a final decision on the further use of the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca is too uncertain,” Danish Health Authority director Soren Brostrom told a news briefing.

“Many studies have been launched, but we do not yet have any conclusions, which is why we have decided to extend the suspension”.

The vaccine rollout in Denmark will face a delay of four weeks if the AstraZeneca shot is not reapproved in three weeks’ time, according to a timeline on the health agency’s website.

The decision to extend the suspension was partly taken in order not to jeopardize the high level of trust among Danes in COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We need to be able to tell people with great clarity, certainty and openness that they can trust the vaccine that we not only offer, but also recommend,” Brostrom said.

“That is why we follow the precautionary principle.”

Approximately 150,000 people in Denmark had received AstraZeneca’s shot in Denmark before it was suspended, while almost 500,000 have received Pfizer-BioNTech’s jab and around 37,000 Moderna’s vaccine.

Both the European Medicines Agency and the WHO said last week the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweighed the risks.

An EMA review covering 20 million people who took the AstraZeneca shot in Britain and the European Economic Area found seven cases of blood clots in multiple blood vessels and 18 cases of a rare condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), in which a clot forms in the sinuses that drain blood from the brain.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Tim Barsoe; editing by Nick Macfie and John Stonestreet)

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