There’s fresh calls to halt AstraZeneca vaccinations in Australia after several more European countries hit the brakes on the jab. France, Italy and Germany stopped using the vaccine on Monday, after Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Bulgaria suspended its use over fears it may cause blood clots.
Denmark was one of the first countries to raise alarm over the vaccine. According to an ABC report, Denmark suspended the vaccine for two weeks after a 60-year-old woman formed a blood clot and died shortly after receiving the jab.
“It is currently not possible to conclude whether there is a link,” Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Twitter at the time. “We are acting early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated.”
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan has now called for Australia to do the same. “It’s time we follow Europe and suspend our vaccine rollout,” Canavan told Sky News Tuesday morning, The Australian reports.
“I don’t see how we could continue when basically the whole of Europe is worried about this vaccine. We shouldn’t suppress legitimate concerns and issues and clearly there are legitimate concerns and issues given the decisions that have been made by almost every European country.”
However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday that there was “no evidence” that the AstraZeneca vaccine had caused the blood clots, and Australia will be continuing with its rollout. “In the case of the United Kingdom, they have already distributed more than 12 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and they haven’t seen those trends or patterns across their community,” he told ABC RN on Tuesday, news.com.au reports. “It is still the government’s intention to roll it out, as we’ve said.”
The British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company has also weighed in on the debate, saying their product is perfectly safe.
“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population,” Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, said. “The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine has had a pretty rocky start. Just last month, several German news outlets reported that the vaccine had an efficacy of less than 10 per cent among older people. However, the company that makes the vaccine was quick to shut down those claims, saying they’re “completely incorrect”.
And, earlier in February, there were calls from Australian scientists to pause the rollout of the vaccine, due to concerns it may not be effective enough to generate herd immunity.