The Netherlands becomes the 7th country to suspend AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, pending an investigation into blood clots

Grace Dean
·3 min read
Mark Rutte
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. BSR Agency / Contributor
  • The Netherlands said it would stop using AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for at least two weeks.

  • It said the decision was based on six new reports of blood clots in Denmark and Norway.

  • Eight countries have now halted the shot. There is no evidence it causes blood clots.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Netherlands has paused the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution while investigators look into cases of blood clots among vaccinated people.

Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge said Sunday that the suspension would last at least two weeks, as the country awaits further guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European regulator.

It followed the Dutch vaccine regulator, the Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB), recommending the country pause the rollout of the shot because of possible side effects reported in Denmark and Norway, both of which suspended use of AstraZeneca's vaccine Thursday.

Iceland, Thailand, Bulgaria, and Ireland have also paused rollout of AstraZeneca's shot. On Monday, Indonesian officials said the country would also delay its rollout of AstraZeneca's vaccine.

The MEB said there was no evidence AstraZeneca's vaccine caused the blood clots reported from Norway and Denmark. AstraZeneca, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the EMA have all said there is currently no evidence that the vaccine causes blood clots.

The MEB said there had been six new reports of clotting and thrombocytopenia - low platelet count - in adults under 50 in Denmark and Norway after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Ireland on Sunday also noted that some of the serious cases of clots had been complicated by thrombocytopenia.

No similar cases are currently known in the Netherlands, it added.

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The Netherlands would continue administering both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines, its health authority said.

The Netherlands administered its first doses of AstraZeneca's shot on February 12. The vaccine relies on a two-shot strategy, with 12 weeks between the two doses. The Dutch health authority said it expected AstraZeneca's vaccine to be cleared in time for people who have already had their first shot to receive their second shot.

Eight countries have now halted use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

The Netherlands joins Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Thailand, Bulgaria, and Ireland, which have all temporarily stopped use of AstraZeneca's vaccine. The day after the Netherlands' announcement, Indonesia also made the move, just six days after its regulators authorized AstraZeneca's shot.

Other countries have stopped using one particular batch of the vaccine after two people in Austria who received doses from the batch developed blood clots.

The EMA, which is the EU's vaccine regulator, said it was investigating the incidents, but that there was "no indication" the vaccine had caused them. Experts say any risks are outweighed by the shot's benefits.

The WHO said Friday it hadn't found a link between the vaccine and clots, and urged countries to keep inoculating with the shot.

AstraZeneca said Sunday that there was no evidence its COVID-19 vaccine led to an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep-vein thrombosis, or thrombocytopenia "in any defined age group, gender, batch, or in any particular country."

"Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population," Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca's chief medical officer, said.

There has also been no evidence of increased bleeding in the more than 60,000 participants who enrolled in AstraZeneca's trials, it added.

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