After Denmark, two more nations have joined the country in suspending the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine over reports of blood clotting among the vaccine recipients. The European Union's regulator has also launched an inquiry to investigate the matter. The AstraZeneca vaccine is manufactured by the world's largest vaccine maker Serum Institute of India, a Pune-based vaccine giant.
Denmark suspended the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday after many recipients reported blood clotting and one among them has allegedly "died". Immediately after Denmark, Norway and Iceland also followed the suit, scrapping the vaccine administration. These countries have not specifically mentioned how long the suspension would go on.
Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said the suspension was a "precautionary measure". "We act early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated," he tweeted. The Danish authorities have also said the decision to suspend the vaccine was "temporary".
"We are in the middle of the largest and most important vaccination rollout in Danish history. And right now we need all the vaccines we can get. Therefore, putting one of the vaccines on pause is not an easy decision. But precisely because we vaccinate so many, we also need to respond with timely care when there is knowledge of possible serious side effects. We need to clarify this before we can continue to use the vaccine from AstraZeneca," Soren Brostrom, director of the Danish National Board of Health, stated.
The decision on AstraZeneca was taken after 22 cases of blood clots were reported among over 3 million people vaccinated in the European Economic Area. Austria also suspended an AstraZeneca batch after a nurse, 49, died due to "severe blood coagulation". She has received the vaccine a few days ago.
Other nations like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg also suspended the current batch supply from AstraZeneca but refrained from placing full ban.
The Swedish-British pharma major AstraZeneca's vaccine is developed by the University of Oxford and is also manufactured in India with the name Covishield. AstraZeneca has defended its vaccine, saying it has been studied extensively in the phase 3 trials, which shows high efficacy. "The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well-tolerated," an AstraZeneca spokesman told AFP.
The vaccine is being widely used in India and Britain as well. As part of phase 2 of the vaccination drive in India, the Modi government has placed a fresh order of about 10 crore Covishield vaccines. Apart from AstraZeneca's Covishield, India is using homegrown Bharat Biotech's Covaxin to inoculate about 27 crore people of the age group of over 60 and between 46 and 60 years with co-morbidities in phase 2.