Sweden pauses AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines

Sweden pauses AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines

Sweden followed suit with a fast expanding list of countries to pause AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday until Europe’s regulator completes an investigation into reports of blood clots and bleeding in a small number of vaccinated individuals.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency said no such reports occurred in Sweden, but is awaiting results from the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) investigation to determine casual ties between coagulation and the vaccine. EMA said it plans to convene its safety committee on Thursday to draw conclusions on the data and take any necessary action. 

Germany, France, Italy and Spain were among countries that suspended use of the vaccine on Monday.

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“The decision is a precautionary measure,” Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said in a statement.

AstraZeneca attempted to defend its product earlier this week, saying a review of over 17 million vaccinations in the EU and UK “has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.” The company noted 15 events of deep vein thrombosis and 22 events of pulmonary embolism among vaccinated individuals, as of March 8. 

AstraZeneca says the figure does not exceed naturally occurring coagulation in the general population, also echoed by the World Health Organization and EMA. Despite the fast growing list of countries moving to pause shots, the EMA maintains that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of side effects.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.