Irish medical chief says use of AstraZeneca Covid jab should be suspended after reports of blood clots in Norway

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Use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine should be suspended following reports of serious post-jab blood clots in Norway, Ireland’s deputy medical chief said.

Irish authorities have been pushing the pharmaceutical giant to speed up its vaccine supplies to the Republic, where cases per million people exceeded the UK’s figures during the peak of the January wave.

But now, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said Ireland will act on a ‘precautionary principle’ and pause the AstraZeneca rollout following reports of ‘serious blood clotting events’ in Norway.

It will join Denmark, Norway and Iceland in temporarily halting all AstraZeneca vaccinations.

So far, more than 11 million doses of the Oxford jab have been administered in the UK alone, with countless more distributed worldwide.

Out of the millions of vaccines already given, fewer than 50 cases of blood-related issues have been reported post-vaccine, with no confirmed causal link to the jab.

AstraZeneca, the World Health Organization and EU regulators have all rejected the blood clot fears.

Norwegian health authorities confirmed that three healthcare workers who had the AstraZeneca jab were being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets.

Dr Glynn said: ‘This recommendation has been made following a report from the Norwegian Medicines Agency of four new reports of serious blood clotting events in adults after vaccination with Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.

‘It has not been concluded that there is any link between the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases.

‘However, acting on the precautionary principle, and pending receipt of further information, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended the temporary deferral of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.’

Norway halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday, following a similar move by Denmark. Iceland later followed suit.

All three individuals in hospital in Norway for conditions including blood clots were under the age of 50. The Government were notified on Saturday.

Senior doctor at the Norwegian Medicines Agency Sigurd Hortemo told a news conference this week: ‘We do not know if the cases are linked to the vaccine.’

The European medicine regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), would investigate the three incidents, Hortemo said.

Medical Director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency Steinar Madsen said: ‘They have very unusual symptoms: bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets.

‘They are quite sick […] We take this very seriously.’

Meanwhile, the EMA reported one person in Austria was diagnosed with blood clots and died 10 days after vaccination – but it stressed there is ‘currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions’.

A further patient was admitted to hospital in Austria with pulmonary embolism – a blockage in the arteries in the lungs –  after being vaccinated, while one death involving a blood clot was reported in Denmark.

A 50-year-old man is also thought to have died in Italy from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), while there has been an unconfirmed report of another death in the country.

Italy also followed Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Lithuania in banning jabs from one particular batch of one million AstraZeneca vaccines, which was sent to 17 countries, after reports that a 49-year-old nurse died soon after getting one of the jabs.

Earlier this week, EU regulators confirmed they are looking into 30 cases of blood clots among nearly five million people who have had a dose of the vaccine.

Ireland’s governing coalition has been under fire over the speed of its vaccination response.

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