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Denmark abandons AstraZeneca vaccine, EMA to rule on J&J jab next week

The director general of the health authority said he “would not hesitate” to use this vaccine if Denmark’s Covid-19 situation was in a worse position.

Image: DPA/PA Images

Updated Apr 14th 2021, 3:00 PM

THE DANISH HEALTH Authority has announced that it will no longer use the AstraZeneca vaccine, in a European first. 

In a statement, the authority said it will continue its vaccine rollout without the AstraZeneca vaccine primarily because other jabs are available and the Covid-19 situation in Denmark is “currently under control”. 

On 11 March, the Danish authority paused the use of this vaccine alongside other EU countries. 

People who have already received their first AstraZeneca dose will “later receive an invitation to vaccination with another vaccine”, the authority said. 

Director General of the health authority, Søren Brostrøm, said: “If Denmark were in a completely different situation and in the midst of a violent third outbreak, for example, and a healthcare system under pressure – and if we had not reached such an advanced point in our rollout of the vaccines – then I would not hesitate to use the vaccine, even if there were rare but severe complications associated with using it.

“In the midst of an epidemic, it has been a difficult decision to continue our vaccination programme without an effective and readily available vaccine against Covid-19.

“However, we have other vaccines at our disposal, and the epidemic is currently under control.”

The authority said that anyone aged 16 or over can expect to be offered a vaccine by late June.

The move comes as worldwide concerns mount over the danger of blood clots linked to the embattled company’s medication.

Earlier today, German officials advised people under the age of 60, who have already received one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine, to use a different vaccine for their second dose.

The German health ministry said it is recommending that people in that category should receive as their second shot either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccination, both of which were developed using a different process.

Officials added that in individual cases, younger people wanting a second AstraZeneca shot can get one so long as they have a careful medical risk assessment.

That also applies to high-risk people under the age of 60 still awaiting their primary vaccination.

The reports of rare blood clots in some people who have received the vaccine prompted

Germany and several other countries in the 27-nation European Union to limit the AstraZeneca shots to older age groups, who are more at risk from serious illness when infected with Covid-19.

A possible similar issue has arisen with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, leading the company to “proactively delay” the rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine to Europe after US health agencies recommended the vaccine be paused “out of an abundance of caution” after six cases of a rare type of blood clot were reported.

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said today that it will make a recommendation on the safety of the coronavirus jab next week. 

The vaccine was authorised in the EU on 11 March 2021 but the widespread use of the sing-shot jab within the EU has not yet started, meaning data is limited to the US rollout. 

The EMA said it is working closely with the US FDA and other international regulators to investigate all the cases reported and will decide whether regulatory action is necessary.

“EMA is expediting this evaluation and currently expects to issue a recommendation next week,” it said in a statement, after announcing last week a probe had been launched.

While its review is ongoing, EMA remains of the view that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects. 

- Additional reporting from Press Association

About the author:

Orla Dwyer and Adam Daly

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