The decision followed the detection of seven cases of blood clots in the brain, out of 1.6 million people who have received the vaccine in the country, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a news conference.
France and Italy also announced Monday that they would suspend the use of the vaccine out of an abundance of caution while awaiting an analysis from the European Medicines Agency, which is expected to be finalized this week.
Drugmaker AstraZeneca said late Sunday that there is no scientific evidence of any link between its coronavirus vaccine and recent deaths in Europe from blood clots. The rate of blood clots in people who have been inoculated with the vaccine is "much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population," the company said in a statement.
"We are all aware of the far-reaching consequences of this decision," Spahn said of the halt. German health authorities recommended that anyone who has not felt well for more than four days after receiving the jab to seek medical advice.
The vaccine, developed alongside Britain's Oxford University, has yet to be approved in the United States and has struggled to build confidence around its product in Europe. Its trial data was criticized, while several European countries did not initially approve it for use among people over 65.
The World Health Organization and European regulators have continued to express confidence in its safety. Spahn said European regulators would now have to decide whether new information would impact the vaccine's authorization.
The European Medicines Agency released a statement Monday to address the incidence of blood clots in patients who had recently received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The safety committee reported that the frequency of clots after the vaccine is not higher than normal, but that its investigation will continue.
"Events involving blood clots, some with unusual features such as low numbers of platelets, have occurred in a very small number of people who received the vaccine," the statement said. "Many thousands of people develop blood clots annually in the EU for different reasons. The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population."
The bottom line, the agency said, is that "the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects." The World Health Organization echoed that analysis Monday.
The EMA report is expected to be finalized this week.
Published : March 16, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Loveday Morris, Luisa Beck, Rick Noack, Stefano Pitrelli