Sweden, Latvia pull AstraZeneca vaccine as EU probes blood clot risk

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Two more European Union countries stopped using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday as the bloc’s health regulators probed safety concerns that have hampered the shot’s rollout.

Sweden and Latvia joined the growing list of nations that suspended AstraZeneca’s jab after a handful of people who received it developed blood clots, some of which were linked to deaths.

More than a dozen EU member states — including major economies such as Germany, France and Italy — have temporarily yanked the vaccine despite assurances from the British drugmaker and the World Health Organization that it’s safe to use.

Health officials in Latvia and Sweden said they were halting the shot’s use as a precaution while the European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, investigates the blood clot cases that have emerged in places such as Austria and Denmark.

The EMA’s drug safety committee is slated to review information about the cases Tuesday ahead of a Thursday meeting where officials will determine what actions they need to take.

In a statement Monday, the agency stressed that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweigh the risks of potential side effects. Health officials have said there’s no indication the vaccine caused the blood clots.

“Experts are looking in great detail at all the available data and clinical circumstances surrounding specific cases to determine whether the vaccine might have contributed or if the event is likely to have been due to other causes,” the EMA said.

About 7.3 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have been administered in the EU so far, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

But it remains to be seen how the decisions to temporarily shelve the shot in several countries will affect the pace of the rollout.

Some EU nations such as Belgium and the Czech Republic have reportedly continued using AstraZeneca’s shot along with Canada and the UK. It may also be cleared for use in the US by next month.

The UK has “one of the toughest and most experienced regulators in the world,” British prime minister Boris Johnson said Monday. “They see no reason at all to discontinue the vaccination program.”

With Post wires

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