AstraZeneca insists its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and there is no link to blood clots, as 11 countries suspend its use

Astrazeneca vaccine
A vial and syringe in front of an AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken January 11, 2021. Reuters/Dado Ruvic
  • AstraZeneca pushed back Sunday as a growing list of countries stopped using its COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Netherlands, Indonesia, Germany, France, and Italy suspended the use of the vaccine on Monday.
  • AstraZeneca reviewed 17 million vaccination records, and said it found fewer blood clots than expected for a group that size.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

AstraZeneca insisted Sunday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe in its firmest rebuttal yet to concerns over its safety that have led to eleven countries suspending its use.

Some national health authorities – mainly in Europe – have stopped using the shot while they investigate whether it could be linked to instances of blood clots in people who took it.

As of midday ET on Monday, the countries to suspend the vaccine were:

  • Indonesia
  • The Netherlands
  • Ireland
  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Bulgaria
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Democratic Republic of Congo

AstraZeneca on Sunday pushed back in a statement, saying that there is no evidence for a link.

It said it reviewed safety data from 17 million people who got the shot in the UK and EU, and found fewer clot-related adverse effects than would be expected in any group of that size.

It said that among the 17 million there had been 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the veins) and 22 of pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs).

This is “much lower” than what would expect in the general population, and it is similar to what was observed with other COVID-19 vaccines, the company said.

The number of cases of blood clots reported in the general population would be in the “hundreds”, Ann Taylor, AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer, said in the statement.

She said the company was “going beyond the standard practices” to monitor the safety of the shot.

Her claim lines up with reporting from Insider’s Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce, who reported last week that there was no evidence of increased risk.

Nonetheless, countries have continued to pause use of the shot even after the statement. The Netherlands, Indonesia, France, Italy, and Germany halted their use on Monday.

One country – Thailand – had paused use of the shot, but said Monday it would start using it again from Tuesday.

The WHO has urged countries to keep vaccinating with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The European Medicines Agency and the UK’s MHRA have both backed the shot to keep being used.

AstraZeneca hasn’t sought authorization for its jab in the US.

One expert suggested that the suspensions could ultimately do more harm than good.

Dr Peter English, a retired consultant in communicable disease control, told the Science Media Centre: “When a vaccine is administered to millions of people, it is inevitable that some adverse events – that would have happened anyway – will happen shortly after vaccination.”

“It is most regrettable that countries have stopped vaccination on such ‘precautionary’ grounds: it risks doing real harm to the goal of vaccinating enough people to slow the spread of the virus, and to end the pandemic.”