Numerous health authorities in Germany declared they were once more suspending the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for people under 60 years old amid new reports of atypical blood clots in recent recipients of the shots, according to an initial report from the German news service Zeit Online.
Canada, too, has recently imposed similar restrictions on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But it's important to note that this may not reflect the general population of elderly recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine — and so far seems to be too localized to merit widespread concern.
Germany and Canada impose limits on AstraZeneca
It was officials in Berlin, Munich, and the eastern state of Brandenburg who made the decision to place a temporary halt on vaccinations before a Tuesday meeting of representatives from Germany's 16 states. Officials called the meeting after Germany's medical regulator said it had received 31 reports of rare blood clots in recent recipients of AstraZeneca's vaccine.
Nine of them died — with all but two of them including women from 20 to 63 years old, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, the L.A. Times reports. The move from some German authorities to suspend the vaccine came one day after Canada made a similar one — limiting the vaccine from recipients aged 55 and older.
The unusual kind of blood clot reportedly happens in the head, in an event called sinus vein thrombosis — and is what caused European countries to place a temporary halt on the AstraZeneca vaccine's application earlier in March. But further review by medical experts like the European Medicines Agency concluded that the pros of the vaccine vastly outweighed the cons — while also recommending warnings to the patients and doctors of rare but possible side effects.
AstraZeneca limits could delay tens of thousands of COVID-19 vaccine appointments
Most of the 27 member countries of the E.U. have already resumed the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine. Earlier on Tuesday, two Berlin-based and state-owned hospitals said they'd halted the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to female staff members younger than 55 years old. The vaccine was also halted for all younger women by the heads of five university hospitals in western Germany, due to concerns of blood clots.
Berlin's State Health Minister Dilek Kalayci said the suspension for younger people to use the AstraZeneca vaccine was merely a precautionary measure. "We have not had a case of serious side effects in Berlin yet," she said, in the L.A. Times report — adding that everyone who already got the shot should take solace in their ongoing protection against the COVID-19 illness.
"Still, we need to treat it carefully and wait for the talks taking place at the federal level," Kalayci said. This move could change or delay appointments for tens of thousands of teachers and those with pre-existing health conditions who had already received invites to be jabbed the AstraZeneca's vaccine in Berlin. But it's important not to consider these limitations as a red flag on the vaccine. Instead of a recall, this is more like a hiccup for one of the fastest rollouts in vaccine development history — to immunize the public against the COVID-19 illness.
Editorial note: A previous version of the article stated that countries were banning the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 60, but it is, of course, for people under the age of 60. We apologize for the confusion.