Ireland is suspending use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid as a precautionary measure following further reports of blood clots in people who have received it, this time from Norway.

The deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said Ireland’s advisory body on vaccines had recommended that deployment of the AstraZeneca jab should be “temporarily deferred” with immediate effect. He stressed, though, that there was no proof that the vaccine had caused blood clots.

The first reports of blood clots in people receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine came out of Austria and caused a flurry of concern, leading to a number of European countries, including Denmark, pausing their use of it pending investigations.

Ireland cited the report into a death and three hospitalisations in Norway, which came out on Saturday.

“Following new information received from the Norwegian Medicines Agency on Saturday evening … and following discussions with the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended that the administration of Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca be temporarily deferred from this morning, Sunday 14 March,” said Glynn.

“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 NIAC has recommended the temporary deferral of the Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.

“The NIAC is due to meet again this morning. A further statement will follow thereafter.”

Millions of people have already been given the AstraZeneca jab without any significant side-effects, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority in the UK has said. The numbers of blood clots and brain haemorrhages in people vaccinated recently is no more than is expected in that size of population.

Very rare events cannot be detected in clinical trials, however, which involve tens of thousands of people given a vaccine. Medical authorities around the world will want to investigate any reports of serious or unusual side-effects.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency is investigating the cases of four people under 50 who had the AstraZeneca jab. One died and the others were admitted to hospital. All had a reduced number of blood platelets, the agency said.

It appealed for anyone in the same age group experiencing similar reactions to contact the health service. “People under the age of 50 who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine and feel increasingly unwell more than three days after vaccination, and who notice larger or smaller blue spots in the skin (skin haemorrhages) must consult a doctor or out-of-hours medical service as soon as possible,” it said in a statement.

“Similar incidents have been reported in other European countries, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is considering whether there may be an association with the coronavirus vaccines. So far, no conclusion has been reached.”

The agencies would be looking for any reports of blood clots or bleeding in association with any of the coronavirus vaccines, it said.

AstraZeneca vaccinations make up almost 20% of the 570,000 shots administered in Ireland, mainly to healthcare workers after its use was not initially recommended for those over 70.



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