Denmark abandons AstraZeneca jabs
Denmark has decided not to resume use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine due to "real risk of severe side effects".
Denmark has decided not to resume use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after putting it on hold last month following reports of rare blood clots in some recipients.
Australia's already delayed vaccine rollout took a major hit last week with new advice for Australians under the age of 50 to be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca.
The UK and much of Europe took similar measures but Denmark is the first European nation to completely cease using the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker's jab.
Others had temporarily halted the use of AstraZeneca whilst the rare blood clots were investigated, but numerous drug advisory groups reiterated the vaccine's benefits outweighed any risks.
"Based on the scientific findings, our overall assessment is there is a real risk of severe side effects associated with using the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca," Danish Health Authority director-general Søren Brostrøm said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We have, therefore, decided to remove the vaccine from our vaccination programme."
Dr Brostrøm said the DHA agreed with the European Medicines Agency's risk-benefit analysis for the AstraZeneca vaccine but highlighted the agency's advice to take the local virus situation into account.
"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," he said.
"However, we have other vaccines at our disposal, and the epidemic is currently under control.
"Furthermore, we have come a long way towards vaccinating the older age groups where vaccination has a tremendous potential impact on preventing infection."
The bulk of the shots given in Denmark so far have been the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but the decision not to resume with AstraZeneca could deal another blow to confidence in the jab.
Earlier on Wednesday, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced plans for a major contract extension for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer stretching to 2023.
In a sign of confidence in a company that has been a mainstay of Europe's vaccination drive so far, Ms von der Leyen said the EU will start negotiating to buy 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through 2023.
She expressed full confidence in the technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is different from the technology behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
"We need to focus on the technologies that have proven their worth," Ms von der Leyen said.
Pfizer-BioNTech plans to provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the second quarter of this year, on top of 200 million already earmarked for the bloc.
The deliveries will be especially welcomed by the EU's 27 member nations considering supply delays and concerns over rare blood clots potentially linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The European Commission currently has a portfolio of 2.3 billion doses from a half dozen companies and is negotiating more contracts.
The planned negotiations with Pfizer left in the middle what the EU would do about any new contracts with AstraZeneca, which has had massive delivery problems during the first quarter and expects to send far fewer vaccines than its contract with the EU called for during the second quarter.
The European Commission said in a statement, "We keep all options open to be prepared for the next stages of the pandemic, for 2022 and beyond. We can, however, not comment on contractual issues."