France will stop administering AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine as a "precaution" pending a new assessment by the European Union's medicines regulator, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday, following a similar announcement by the German and Italian governments.
“The decision has been made ... to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution, hoping that we can resume its use quickly if the judgement of the EMA (European Medicines Agency) allows it,” Macron said at a press conference, adding that an EMA announcement was expected Tuesday afternoon.
Spain is also suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for at least a fortnight, the health minister said Monday.
“We have decided to temporarily suspend (use of the AstraZeneca vaccine) as a precaution for at least the next two weeks," Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters just hours after Germany, France and Italy announced similar moves.
She said the decision would remain in place until the EMA “analyses the recent incidences of blood clots, notably over the weekend”.
The German health ministry said earlier on Monday that it was suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine as a precaution and on the advice of the national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), which called for further investigation of the cases.
“After new reports of thromboses of the cerebral veins in connection with the vaccination in Germany and Europe, the PEI considers further investigations to be necessary,” said the health ministry.
“The European Medicines Agency will decide whether and how the new findings will affect the approval of the vaccine,” it added.
Shortly afterward, the Italian medicines authority said it was taking the same decision.
Several European countries – including Denmark, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands – had already suspended usage of the shots, which were jointly developed with the University of Oxford. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg have also put the vaccine on hold.
Both AstraZeneca and Oxford have said there is no link between their vaccine and blood clotting.
The company had said the 15 incidences of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine was “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population”.
In its statement, the health ministry said the reported blood clots involved cerebral veins, but did not specify where or when the incidents occurred.
The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have also said that available data do not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and that people should continue to be immunized.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Germany has received slightly over 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and only used 1.35 million doses so far.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)