Why European countries are halting the AstraZeneca shot
The largest and most influential European countries, like Germany, France, and Italy, have paused the rollout of coronavirus vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca over blood clot fears. Their decision comes despite assurances from the World Health Organization and Europe's medicines watchdog that the vaccine is safe. Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, and Latvia have also joined the club.
Spain and Italy suspend using AstraZeneca jabs
Spain — which was battered by the virus last year — will stop using the vaccine for two weeks, Health Minister Carolina Darias announced in a televised address on Monday. Likewise, Italy, whose coronavirus story had scared the world, also temporarily suspended the vaccine rollout. The Italian medicines agency AIFA announced on Monday that this was a precautionary step.
Macron announced his government's decision about vaccination
Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday that the rollout would be halted as a precaution since a handful of blood clots cases came to light in Denmark and Norway. He had earlier stood by the safety of the AstraZeneca jab. On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said, "We have decided to suspend the use of AstraZeneca as a precautionary measure."
Dutch Health Minister had earlier dismissed concerns
The group of countries to have halted using AstraZeneca jabs was joined by Ireland and the Netherlands over the weekend. The Dutch government's decision came days after Health Minister Hugo de Jonge declared that there was "no cause for concern." Now, much of Europe has halted the rollout after one woman in Denmark died. Her death is yet to be linked with the shot.
UK has decided to continue using the vaccine
Beyond Europe, Indonesia has said that it will also delay the rollout. The AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper than its competitors and is dubbed as the savior for poorer nations. Meanwhile, the UK is still backing the vaccine. It has doled out over 11 million jabs of the vaccine (more than the entire EU combined) without any major side-effects coming to the fore, reports AFP.
Both WHO and EMA want countries to vaccinate citizens
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged the countries to not pause the rollout. "We do not want people to panic and we would, for the time being, recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca," Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) concurred with the United Nations agency. It said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the side-effects.
Germany and France are dealing with rise in infections
Notably, the European nations are pausing the rollout amid an increase in coronavirus cases. Germany's intensive care doctors called for fresh restrictions to avoid the third coronavirus wave. Hospitalizations are rising again in France. The situation is so stark that nearly 100 COVID-19 patients were evacuated from Paris' hospitals. They were reportedly shifted to areas where ICUs are less crowded, reports CNN.