Romania pauses use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine batch

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian authorities have temporarily stopped vaccinating people with one batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as an "extreme precaution" while deaths in Italy are investigated, but are continuing to use other doses from the company, a health agency said on Thursday.

Italian health authorities have ordered the withdrawal of a batch of AstraZeneca's vaccine following the deaths of two men in Sicily who were recently inoculated, a source close to the matter said on Thursday.

Romania said it has suspended using doses from the same batch in question in Italy, adding it received 81,600 doses in early February and has used 77,049 so far. The suspension will last until the European Medicines Agency completes a probe.

"This decision was made as a measure of extreme precaution without there being a scientific argument present in Romania to justify it," Romania's national committee in charge of COVID-19 vaccination said in a statement.

"The decision to quarantine the respective batch was made exclusively based on the event reported in Italy."

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Separately, health authorities in Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine following reports of blood clots in some people who were vaccinated, while Austria stopped using a batch of shots while investigating a death.

Romanian officials said the country did not receive doses from the batch suspended in Denmark and other states.

Romania reported 5,236 daily new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest number so far this year. More than 1.1 million Romanians have received at least one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca's vaccines in the European Union country of 20 million.

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(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)