The Danish health authority is to extend its suspension of use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for a further three weeks, director Soren Brostrom announced in Copenhagen today.
Denmark was the first country to raise concerns that some patients who had received the AZ vaccine later developed blood clots. The country stopped using the vaccine until it could look into whether there was a causal link.
Then as up to a dozen other countries suspended use of the AZ vaccine, either partially or completely, the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation stressed that there was no demonstrated link, the numbers involved were tiny compared to the numbers using the vaccine, and that anyway the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the dangers.
Meanwhile researchers in three countries have suggested the blood clot side-effect is a result of the body’s own immune system, as it reacts to what it recognises as an attack by infection.
But Denmark is not alone, Bloomberg writes. Sweden will also extend its suspension, with state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell explaining that the side-effect appears not to affect people over 65 – perhaps because their immune system is not as robust as it used to be.
“However, there are a number of cases among people under 65, and new cases have been registered in various places in Europe; therefore we’ll continue the suspension for that group until we know more about the risks,” he said.
Finland will do the same, restricting the vaccine to the over-65s. Norway has yet to announce a decision.
Denmark’s health authority repeated the argument used by the countries that initially suspended the vaccine, that they were working on what is known as the precautionary principle: that no action should be taken until the risk is understood.
Brostrom said, however, that it was possible the suspension could be lifted even before the three-week extension ends. The research currently being carried out into the blood clot problem will also be extended to look at two other vaccines – Moderna and Pfizer.