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Now Germany to halt AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for under-60s over blood clot fears – despite regulators saying it’s safe


GERMANY is to stop giving AstraZeneca Covid jabs to the under-60s over blood clot fears – despite regulators saying it’s completely safe.

The suspension comes despite Germany and other European countries’ chaotic vaccine programmes and a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases.

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AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine won't be used on under-60s in Germany

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AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine won’t be used on under-60s in GermanyCredit: AP

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The shock decision comes days after France, Italy and Germany resumed their rollout out of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the EU finally declared it safe.

The trio’s humiliating U-turn had come after all three countries led the way in suspending use of the jab amid an unfounded safety scare about the link with blood-clots.

But tonight, in another about-face, German health officials agreed to restrict the use of AstraZeneca doses in people under 60 from Wednesday.

This is due to fresh concern over unusual blood clots reported in a tiny number of those who received the shots.

Health Minister Jens Spahn and state officials agreed unanimously to only give the vaccine to people aged 60 or older.

That’s unless they belong to a high-risk category for serious illness from Covid and have agreed with their doctor to take the vaccine despite the small risk of a serious side-effect.

The move follows the recommendations of Germany’s independent vaccine expert panel.

The country’s medical regulator released new data showing a rise in reported cases of an unusual form of blood clot in the head known as sinus vein thrombosis in recent recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There has been a spike in Covid infections in Germany
There has been a spike in Covid infections in Germany

But in a statement ahead of Germany’s announcement, AstraZeneca said tens of millions of people worldwide have received its vaccines.

It noted that the EU regulator and the World Health Organisation concluded that the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.

The company also said it would continue to work with German authorities to address any questions they might have.

AstraZenaca is also analysing its own records to understand whether “the rare blood clots reported occur more commonly than would be expected naturally in a population of millions of people.”

Millions of people across the world have had the AstraZeneca vaccine – developed by Oxford University – without any complications.

Regulators have stressed that the benefits of the jab, to prevent Covid deaths, far outweigh any potential risks.

Scientists say they have a possible explanation about blood clots

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Scientists say they have a possible explanation about blood clotsCredit: Alamy

European regulators say there is no overall increased risk of blood clots in people who get the shot, or that from Pfizer.

But it is unclear whether a very small number of brain blood clots – including five in the UK, one of whom died – were the result of the jab.

The condition, called CVST, occurred with low blood platelets and is an extremely rare combination of events.

It’s so rare, UK regulators at the MHRA said they did not know how often it happens in the general population. While investigations continue, people have been urged to accept their vaccine offer when it comes.

Germany’s decision to bar under-60s from the jab comes despite fears that the country could soon see 100,000 new daily Covid infections with the third wave its worst yet, a top disease official has warned.

Frustration has grown over the sluggish vaccine roll-out in Germany and just 10 per cent of the population have received at least a first dose – far fewer than Britain, the United States or Israel.

The number of new confirmed infections in Germany has jumped in recent weeks, driven by a more transmissible variant known as B117 – or Kent variant – and easing of lockdown measures.

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases is now warning German’s third Covid wave could be its worse, with its head Lothar Wieler warning that 100,000 deaths a day is on the cards.

“There are clear signals that this wave will be worse than the first two waves. We have some very difficult weeks ahead of us,” he said.

If Germans used the Easter period to further reduce contact, it would at least be possible to lessen the severity of a third wave, he pleaded.

Winfried Kretschmann, Baden-Wuerttemberg federal PM of The Greens party receives his first vaccination shot with the AstraZeneca on March 19

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Winfried Kretschmann, Baden-Wuerttemberg federal PM of The Greens party receives his first vaccination shot with the AstraZeneca on March 19Credit: Reuters

Norway and Denmark have not resumed use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as yet, after suspending its use on March 11.

And Canadian health officials said on Monday they would stop offering AstraZeneca’s vaccine to people under age 55, while ordering a new analysis of the shot’s risks and benefits based on age and gender.

Health Canada said it had been in talks with AstraZeneca, and once it has the requested information, it “will determine if additional regulatory actions are necessary.”

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said: “Patient safety remains AstraZeneca’s highest priority.

“And the company has robust processes in place for the collection, analysis and reporting of adverse events and these are shared with regulatory authorities around the world.”

“The problem with spontaneous reports of suspected adverse reactions to a vaccine are the enormous difficulty of distinguishing a causal effect from a coincidence,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Evans added that the Covid disease itself was very strongly associated with blood clotting.

Scientists claim they know how AstraZeneca Covid vaccine can cause rare blood clots

Scientists believe they have uncovered why people who have recently had the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine have suffered blood clots.

A handful of the millions of people who have received the vaccine in Europe have experienced the extremely rare complication.

While it is still uncertain whether this was directly caused by the vaccine, scientists in Europe say they have an explanation.

Two studies, in Germany and Norway, claim the shot may cause the body to activate its own platelets – blood cells which form clots to stop bleeding.

This causes the blood to thicken, leading to potentially deadly clots.

Noweigan professor Pål Andre Holme claimed this was the “most likely” cause.

‘WEAK EVIDENCE’

But independent scientists said the theory is based on the “weakest evidence”, and gave no further answers.

Millions of people across the world have had the AstraZeneca vaccine – developed by Oxford University – without any complications.

Regulators have stressed that the benefits of the jab, to prevent Covid deaths, far outweigh any potential risks.

European regulators say there is no overall increased risk of blood clots in people who get the shot, or that from Pfizer.

But it is unclear whether a very small number of brain blood clots – including five in the UK, one of whom died – were the result of the jab.

The condition, called CVST, occurred with low blood platelets and is an extremely rare combination of events.

It’s so rare, UK regulators at the MHRA said they did not know how often it happens in the general population.

ACCEPT JAB

While investigations continue, people have been urged to accept their vaccine offer when it comes.

If anyone experiences headaches or severe bruising after their jab, they should seek medical help immediately, experts have warned.

The German study, led by the University of Greifswald, looked at nine patients in Germany and Austria who had some form of blood clotting after one AZ shot, seven of whom had a blood clot.

They believe the phenomenon is similar to a rare disorder that occurs with a blood thinning drug called heparin.

Heparin can trigger the immune system to create antibodies that fire up the platelets.

This is called “heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT)”, and can also be caused by other drugs, leading the scientists to believe it could be the case for the AZ jab, too.

Researchers said four people studied had these antibodies in the blood.

And 20 individuals who received the vaccine but did not develop clots did not have these antibodies.

‘INSECURE CONCLUSION’

Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, said the study had “several limitations” that make its findings less convincing.

For example, it was not investigated whether the patients had previously had Covid – a risk factor for blood clotting in itself.

He said: “The authors’ conclusion that the relationship with vaccination is causative seems insecure at this point and further information on incidence and mechanism in this and other populations is therefore urgently needed to resolve this question.

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