Several European countries, including France, have suspended the use of the Covid-19 vaccine, in a bid to investigate its safety.
Bad signals cascade for AstraZeneca vaccine. By “precautionary principle”, a dozen countries have announced that they have suspended the use of the vaccine against the coronavirus since last week, the time to investigate its safety. After Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Bulgaria, Ireland and the Netherlands joined the list this weekend. Then Germany on Monday, followed a few hours later by France, Italy, Spain, Slovenia … Not all of them reported serious complications after the injection of the vaccine: most of the countries motivated their choice by what was happening with neighbors.
Others, for their part, have decided to set aside only certain batches of vaccines that they consider suspicious: this is what Austria did at the beginning of last week, for example, after the death of a nurse. 49-year-old victim of bleeding disorders. Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Luxembourg, which used the same batch (also distributed in France), followed suit.
The alerts which motivated these decisions are not legion, but their seriousness cannot be ignored by the health authorities. In addition to the case of the Austrian nurse for whom the European Medicines Agency (EMA) already ensures that no direct link has been established between the injection and the death, Denmark reported “Severe cases of blood clot formation” in vaccinated people, including a 60-year-old man who died.
In Norway, two fatal cases of blood clots have also been reported. The country has also observed that caregivers under the age of 50 suffered from thrombocytopenia, a severe decrease in platelets, these blood cells playing an essential role in coagulation. In Bulgaria, an investigation is underway after the death of a vaccinated woman who was overweight and had undergone several coronary bypass surgery.
WHO meeting Tuesday
In each of these cases, no link has been proven at this stage between the injection and the worsening of the patient’s state of health. But the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will have to investigate quickly to reassure countries forced to upset their entire vaccination program. Its security committee is due to review the AstraZeneca case on Tuesday, before an extraordinary meeting on Thursday “To conclude on the information collected and on any other measure that may be necessary”.
In any case, this is not a good signal either for the European agency, which has been hammering for days that there is “No reason not to use” this vaccine and its benefits “Continue to outweigh its risks”. According to her, the number of thromboembolic events in the millions of people who have received doses of AstraZeneca is more or less equivalent to that observed in the general population. In a new statement released on Monday, the agency reiterated that the complications that are at the center of concerns “Occurred in a very small number of people who received the vaccine. Several thousand people develop blood clots every year in the EU for different reasons. “
To date, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine.
The World Health Organization, which is due to hold a meeting on the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, makes the same speech. “To date, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem serious illnesses from the virus”, said one of his spokespersons on Monday.
For AstraZeneca, these (temporary) shelters fuel the growing mistrust surrounding its vaccine authorized at the end of January in the European Union. And the new drop in deliveries announced (with “Only 25% of the doses delivered” at the end of the first quarter, according to Agnès Pannier-Runacher) is not likely to improve the image of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical group.
Not to mention that the doubt is spreading: outside the EU, Thailand, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have already announced that they are delaying the start of their vaccination campaigns with this vaccine. Even if it turns out to be cleared of customs in the occurrence of the few events investigated, the authorities will have to do educational work to reassure public opinion.