Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to plan to stop administering the AstraZeneca vaccine for good, a month after it suspended its use after indicates that a small number of recipients had developed a rare but serious blood clotting disorder.
The director-general of the country’s health authority, Soeren Brostroem, said Denmark was able to stop the use of the vaccine because it brought the pandemic under control and could count on two other vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna.
The Danish announcement is another setback for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is easy to store and relatively inexpensive, and is expected to be the foundation of vaccination campaigns around the world.
The country at the start suspended vaccine use on March 11, with Iceland and Norway. Several other European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, followed suit last month.
The European Union Medicines Regulator, the European Medicines Agency, then recommended that countries continue to use the vaccine, claiming that its benefits far outweigh the potential risks for most people.
Last week, however, the European regulator has listed blood clots as a very rare potential side effect vaccine.
Several countries that had stopped and resumed use of the vaccine have since said they will stop using it among young people. Britain, which has administered around 20 million doses of AstraZeneca, has said it will offer alternative vaccines to people under the age of 30.
“Based on the scientific results, our overall assessment is that there is a real risk of serious side effects associated with the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine”, Dr Brostroem, Danish health officer, said in a press release. “We have therefore decided to withdraw the vaccine from our vaccination program.”
“If Denmark were in a completely different situation and in the midst of a third violent epidemic, for example, and a health system under pressure,” he added, “then I wouldn’t hesitate to use the vaccine. , although there were rare but serious complications associated with its use.
Danish health officials have said they could reintroduce the AstraZeneca vaccine “if the situation changes.”
Public health officials have warned that suspending the administration of vaccines like those from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson could do more harm than good. They note that among seven million people vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine in the United States, six women had developed rare blood clots – less than one in a million. It is not yet clear whether the vaccine has anything to do with clots, but even if it does, the risk is less than that of being struck by lightning in any given year (one in 500 000).
Denmark, with a population of 5.8 million, has managed to contain the pandemic better than its neighbor Sweden or many other European countries. As of Wednesday, Denmark had recorded 2,447 deaths linked to Covid.
Almost a million people in the country have received at least a first dose of a vaccine, 77% of them from Pfizer, according to the Danish Serum Institute. About 15% received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine before authorities suspended its use last month, and the remaining 8% received the Moderna vaccine.
Health officials nationwide have said people who receive a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered a different vaccine for their second dose.
Jasmina nielsen contribution to reports.