The Netherlands has temporarily halted the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for people aged under 60 as a “precaution”.
In a statement on Friday afternoon, the country”s health ministry said it was acting on a new report from independent advisory body Lareb.
The report concerned five women in the country aged between 25 and 65 who had gone on to suffer blood clots after receiving the shot. “Similar reports have also come from other EU countries,” the Dutch authorities added.
Doctors have been advised to cancel all appointments for under-60s until further notice. About 400,000 people in the Netherlands have received the AstraZeneca jab so far, out of around 2.3 million doses of vaccine so far administered nationwide.
The ban comes two weeks after the European Medicines Agency had determined the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe and effective”, but said it could not definitively rule out the increased risk of blood clots as a side effect of the jab.
The EMA’s pharmacovigilance committee is due to give an update on AstraZeneca next Wednesday, after which the Dutch authorities have said they will review the decision.
What next for AstraZeneca in the European Union?
Three days ago Germany also restricted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged over 60 and those belonging to high-risk categories.
The country’s medical regulator announced that it had received a total of 31 reports of rare blood clots in patients, nine of whom had died, and all but two of whom were women aged 20 to 63.
Several countries including Italy, Austria and the Baltic states resumed the rollout of AstraZeneca across all age groups after the EMA’s conclusions were published on March 19.
The Spanish Ministry of Health also announced yesterday that it was removing the upper age limit on inoculations with AstraZeneca. Those aged over 65 in priority groups, such as teachers and health workers, can now receive the jab together with younger cohorts.
But other European states remain cautious. France has temporarily restricted its use to people aged over 55, while Sweden and Finland have cleared AstraZeneca for use only in patients aged over 65.
Full suspensions of vaccinations with AstraZeneca also remain in place in Norway and Denmark due to ongoing concerns about a small number of severe blood clots reported in those countries. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has said it will make a decision no earlier than April 15.
For its part the UK drug regulator, the MHRA, has said it identified 30 cases of blood clots in people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK, stressing that the benefits outweighed the “very low” risk reported to more than 18 million of doses administered.
In a statement this afternoon AstraZeneca said it was working with Dutch authorities to address any questions they had. “Authorities in the UK, European Union, the World Health Organization have concluded that the benefits of using our vaccine to protect people from this deadly virus significantly outweigh the risks across all adult age groups,” it said.