IRELAND HAS halted the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine following the publication of new data by the Norwegian Medicines Agency.
The administration of the Oxford University-developed jab has been “temporarily deferred”, as per the recommendation of the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
It comes after three health workers in Norway who had received the vaccine were subsequently treated for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia).
All three workers were under the age of 50.
The Norwegian health authorities have been keen to stress that the suspension is, at this stage, temporary as it is not yet clear whether these cases are linked to the vaccine.
Ireland has followed Norway and Denmark in halting use of the AstraZeneca jab.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also initiated an investigation into the incidents. However, the EMA did previously call for the rollout of the vaccine to continue following similar concerns, rationalising that the vaccine's benefits outweighed its risks.
In a statement, Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan 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,” he added.
“However, acting on the precautionary principal, and pending receipt of further information, the NIAC has recommended the temporary deferral of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.”
STATEMENT: The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended that the administration of #COVID19 Vaccine AstraZeneca has been temporarily deferred from this morning, Sunday 14th March. pic.twitter.com/MAodFeVXb0
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) March 14, 2021
Niac is due to meet to discuss the issue.
Sigurd Hortemo, a senior doctor at the Norwegian Medicines Agency has been keen to stress the decision is, at this stage, only a precaution.
“We do not know if the cases are linked to the vaccine,” Dr Hortemo told reporters at a press conference.
AstraZeneca has responded to the temporary suspension, highlighting that its previous analysis of covered over 17 million cases where the vaccine was administered.
The data offered up no evidence of any increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia.
A company spokesperson said no trends or patterns of this kind were observed durng clinical trials either.
“The reported numbers of these types of events for Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca are not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population.”