Germany has suspended the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, following other European countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.
The latest suspensions came as the head of the Oxford university group that developed the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine said there was “no signal of a problem” with its jab.
It also came as the World Health Organization urged nations not to pause AstraZeneca inoculation drives over safety concerns.
Several countries have suspended the rollout of the jab in response to reports of blood clots forming in recipients. Ireland, Denmark, Bulgaria, Norway, Iceland and Italy’s Piedmont region have also stayed their Oxford/AstraZeneca inoculation drives.
However, Prof Andrew Pollard, Oxford vaccine group director, told the BBC there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe been given so far”.
“It’s absolutely critical that we don’t have a problem of not vaccinating people and have the balance of a huge risk, a known risk of Covid, against what appears so far from the data that we’ve got from the regulators — no signal of a problem,” he said.
Dr Phil Bryan, vaccines safety head at the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said people “should still go and get their Covid-19 vaccine when asked to do so”.
“We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause,” he said.
The European countries have halted Oxford/AstraZeneca inoculations even though the European Medicines Agency, the EU medical regulator, has recommended its continued use. The stoppage threatens to further delay the European bloc’s already stuttering immunisation drive.
Dutch authorities said 10 cases of problems including possible thrombosis or embolisms had been reported by people who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. That meant 43,000 vaccination appointments would be cancelled.
Hugo de Jonge, health minister, characterised the pause as a precaution and said he hoped the situation would be resolved within two weeks.
Indonesia cited European doubts about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in its own decision to stop its rollout temporarily, adding that it would await a WHO review.
The WHO said last week that there was no sign the problems were caused by the jabs, while the EMA said there was no indication so far of a higher incidence of thrombosis and embolisms in vaccinated people.
It is the second time EU countries have departed from the EMA’s advice on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Several initially declined to give it to older people, although some are considering changing their stance and offering it to all adults.