AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine Restrictions Pile Up, Complicating Shot Roll Outs
By Rhiannon Hoyle and Giovanni Legorano
Australia, Belgium, Italy and Spain joined the U.K. and several
other European nations in restricting the rollout of AstraZeneca
PLC's Covid-19 vaccine, a day after European regulators said there
may be a link between the vaccine and rare, but sometimes deadly
The restrictions deal separate blows to several national vaccine
rollouts that had already been hampered by supply constraints and
Australia's immunization advisory body said Thursday that the
AstraZeneca shot should preferably not be given to people under 50.
The country has been betting heavily on locally made,
AstraZeneca-developed shots. Australian officials said they would
need to review their vaccine purchases and that the advice might
delay how soon first doses can be offered to all Australians.
"It is an abundance of caution, and it's a caution that has been
exercised consistent with many other countries around the world,
and we would expect to see that also continue in other countries
now making similar decisions," said Prime Minister Scott
Italy and Spain both said they would recommend the shot only for
those over 60. Belgium set the bar at over the age of 55.
The recommendations followed advice in the U.K. on Wednesday
restricting the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 30, citing
concerns that it may cause potentially deadly blood clots in very
rare instances. The same day, the European Union's top medicines
regulator said there may be a link between the shot and the rare
blood clotting, although it didn't recommend any age restrictions
for the shot. It said it continues to believe the benefits of the
shot outweigh any risks.
AstraZeneca said both the U.K. and EU review "reaffirmed the
vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of
Covid-19 and that these benefits continue to far outweigh the
risks." It said it was working with regulators to change product
information and working to understand "individual cases,
epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these
extremely rare events."
Brendan Murphy, secretary of Australia's health department, said
Australia would still have a big need for the AstraZeneca shot. "It
is going to be a really important vaccine to vaccinate a
significant proportion of the population," he said.
The German government, meanwhile, has already been recommending
the AstraZeneca vaccine only be used in people age 60 and older.
Anyone under that age can still get the vaccine if they want it,
but at their own risk and after being informed about possible
complications by a qualified health professional.
In most regions of Germany, eligible vaccine recipients include
only those over 70 and people with chronic conditions such as
asthma. Until recently, the small number of people who are eligible
for any vaccine under Germany's strict prioritization system had
been shunning AstraZeneca's shot, leading unused doses to pile up
in the country's vaccination centers.
But there is still demand for the vaccine among younger and less
vulnerable Germans. Confronted with the stockpile of shots, several
states have allowed anyone over 60 to book an appointment for the
unused AstraZeneca vaccines. Doses were snapped up within days.
Denmark suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations for anyone until
later this month and is currently reviewing findings about possible
complications. Norway has also stopped using the shot until at
least April 15. Pending a review of the European Medicines Agency's
latest advice on AstraZeneca, Sweden said it would continue to give
the vaccine only to those over 65. Late last month, Canadian
authorities recommended a halt on administering the AstraZeneca
vaccine to people under the age of 55.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 08, 2021 13:18 ET (17:18 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.