Europe, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Spain pauses AstraZeneca, identifies 1 suspicious case

Spanish officials say there have been just 1 case of thrombosis in the country

Alyssa McMurtry   | 15.03.2021
Spain pauses AstraZeneca, identifies 1 suspicious case

OVIEDO, Spain

Spain Monday suspended the use of AstraZeneca for at least two weeks after identifying one suspicious case of blood clots that could be linked to the vaccine.

“This weekend, our risk evaluation changed. We became aware of one case of cerebral venous thrombosis in Spain, which was accompanied by a reduction of platelets, implying an irregular activation of coagulation,” said Maria Jesus Lamas, head of the Spanish Agency of Medicines, adding that the person is recovering.

“We didn’t think much as it was one case, but on Saturday night, we heard of three cases in Norway. Germany also identified four cases. Since we couldn’t discard the biological plausibility of this type of thrombosis being caused by the vaccine, we thought it needed more review,” she added.

Spain will pause the vaccination until the European Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) reviews the data.

Officials insisted that the number of blood clotting cases has been very low and for the population to stay calm.

“There are very few cases like this -- 11 out of 17 million vaccines administered [across Europe] -- but we think it’s prudent to cautiously pause the vaccine until we have an evaluation of the cases, risk and identify if there are groups or risk factors that could be more associated with these events,” said Lamas.

Across Spain, thousands of people had their vaccination appointments canceled. In Valencia, the regional health minister told a group of hundreds of teachers who had shown up for their jabs to go home.

Spain has approved AstraZeneca for people under 55 years old without health conditions and decided to give it to essential workers like teachers and police officers. The other vaccines are reserved for the elderly, so the workers will have to wait for at least two weeks.

Spain has so far administered close to one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has already received another 760,000 doses, which will remain in storage for now.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) both continued to recommend using the lifesaving vaccine.

“The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects,” said the EMA in a statement.

“The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population,” it added.

In total, Spain has administered 5.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, with 1.7 million people fully immunized.

Meanwhile, despite reopening and the increasing dominance of the more contagious UK variant, COVID-19 infections in Spain continue to drop.

The Health Ministry reported another 11,358 cases between Friday and Monday – a decrease of 600 compared to the previous weekend.

Another 166 people were reported to have lost their lives to the disease, bringing Spain’s official death toll to 72,424.

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