The Australian rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine will continue despite 17 countries—including Indonesia, France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Sweden—suspending their vaccine programs after reports of blood clots in people having received the shot.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly in a statement on March 16 said that the government remains confident that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is fit for use and that there is currently no indication there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clot incidents.
“We are aware of some further European countries pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated,” Kelly said. “While the European Medicines Agency is investigating these events, it has reinforced its view that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is successful in protecting against COVID-19, and should continue to be used in the rollout.”
The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine occurred after reports emerged of five deaths in Europe in people who had received the vaccine—three in Norway, one in Denmark, and one in Italy.
The Danish Medicines Agency, which alerted the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to the issue, said in a press release on March 14 that a Danish woman who had died showed highly unusual symptoms.
“The Danish woman had an unusual clinical picture with a low platelet count, blood clots in small and large vessels as well as bleeding,” Tanja Erichsen, head of division at the Danish Medicines Agency, said.
Similar findings were found in the Norwegian and Italian cases. Both countries have since then suspended the vaccine rollout.
Meanwhile, Austria’s medical authority suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine last week after issues arose with blood coagulation disorders, Reuters reported.
However, head of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), John Skerritt, has challenged the decision of the European nations, saying on Wednesday that the bans were an excessive approach.
“We certainly don’t believe there is any specific problem,” Skerritt said. “At this stage, we don’t believe there is conclusive evidence for cause-and-effect on the clotting issue.”
Not all members of parliament are happy with the TGA’s decision.
Queensland National Party Senator Matt Canavan has called for a pause in the rollout.
“I think a pause right now is the prudent path,” Canavan said on Wednesday. “Obviously there is concern enough to cause a lot of countries to pause their rollouts.”
Canavan noted that Australia had been careful at the start of the year, waiting months for approvals on vaccines.
“I think that approach served us well and it should be a similar approach we take right now. We’re in the lucky position of not having the risk of widespread coronavirus in this country,” he said.
In a statement to The Epoch Times, AstraZeneca said that their primary concern is the safety of everyone.
“We are working with national health authorities and European officials and look forward to their assessment later this week,” the company said.
“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected amoung the general populations.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine is the primary vaccination available to Australians after the federal government secured around 54 million doses of the vaccine—50 million to be produced locally in Melbourne.