AstraZeneca: Belgium wants Europe’s growing vaccine surplus
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AstraZeneca: Belgium wants Europe’s growing vaccine surplus

Credit: Belga/Jonas Roosens

Belgium has asked pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the surplus vaccine doses from the countries that have temporarily put the company’s jabs on hold over recent concerns about possible side effects.

In recent days, a number of European countries have announced they are temporarily suspending AstraZeneca vaccinations following reports of blood clotting, meaning they are currently not using their doses.

“I have contacted AstraZeneca and asked whether it is possible to make use of the extras, if there are any,” Flemish Health Minister Wouter Beke said in the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday. “If we can get them, we will use them in our strategy.”

How many extra doses that would be, or how exactly they could impact Flanders or Belgium’s vaccination campaign is not clear, Beke’s spokesperson Carmen De Rudder told The Brussels Times.

“We have shown interest and inquired about the shipments that would normally go to other countries, but will not be used now that those vaccinations have been paused,” she added. “It was an important signal.”

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The countries that have paused their vaccinations are building up stock, but since Belgium has continued to vaccinate, the country could make good use of those extra shipments, according to Beke.

“I have been informed that they are investigating our request and that they are waiting for the message from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) tomorrow,” Beke said. “I think a number of countries have pushed the pause button, but want to restart as soon as possible.”

At least 15 European countries, including Belgium’s neighbours France, the Netherlands and Germany, have suspended vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s vaccine in recent days, following reports of patients experiencing blood clots.

Belgium, however, announced that it would continue to follow the advice of the EMA, which is currently looking into the vaccine again, but stated that “the benefits outweigh the risks” while the investigation is ongoing.

So far, no causal link between the vaccine and blood clots has been found, and Belgium’s health agency (FAMHP) stated that “the incidence of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people does not appear to be generally higher than in the general population.”

In the meantime and “for the time being,” the World Health Organisation also continues to recommend vaccination with AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

The EMA is expected to give further clarification about the vaccine in a new opinion on Thursday.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times