Major European nations suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Germany, France, Italy and Spain became the latest countries Monday to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and European regulators have said there is no evidence the shot is to blame.

The EU drug regulatory agency called a meeting for Thursday to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca vaccine and decide whether action needs to be taken.

Germany’s health minister said the decision to suspend AstraZeneca shots was taken on the advice of the country’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation into seven cases of clots in the brains of people who had been vaccinated.

“Today’s decision is a purely precautionary measure,” Jens Spahn said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his country will likewise suspend shots until at least Tuesday afternoon. Italy’s drug regulator announced a temporary ban, less than 24 hours after saying the “alarm” over the vaccine “wasn’t justified.” And Spain said it will stop using the vaccine for two weeks while experts review its safety.

AstraZeneca said there have been 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the 27-country European Union and Britain. The drugmaker said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of clots.

In fact, it said the incidence of clots is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar to that of other licensed COVID-19 vaccines.

The World Health Organization and the EU’s European Medicines Agency have also said that the data does not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and that people should continue to be immunized.