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Germany, Italy, France to halt AstraZeneca shots, further hitting EU vaccination campaign

Former president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Tony Bartone, said it was important to note that countries were pausing the AstraZeneca rollout while side effects were investigated.

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“It’s a precautionary step that they’ve taken,” he said on Nine’s Today show. “We need to remember there is no proof, no evidence to that effect. They’ve even acknowledged that in their statements.”

Dr Bartone said the reported side effects – including blood clots – were not uncommon in the older population that was the focus of initial vaccine rollouts across the world.

“We’ve had 30 million doses given in the UK, several many million around Europe and the rest of the world. That will be informing the decision of the [European Medicines Agency] and the World Health Organisation and then, in turn, our [Therapeutic Goods Administration],” he said.

But Nationals senator Matt Canavan said Australia’s medical regulator should listen to the concerns of health authorities overseas.

“It’s really ourselves and the UK continuing this but almost every European country … has concerns,” he said on 2GB.

“There are obviously concerns big enough to convince every major European country to suspend this particular drug, or this particular vaccine. And if this was any other medical treatment I reckon we would be following suit.”

Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan said Australia’s pandemic response had been successful because the country has listened to medical advice.

“And that expert medical advice is still clear: AstraZeneca is safe, as is the Pfizer vaccine,” he said later on the Today show.

World Health Organisation stands by vaccine

The World Health Organisation appealed to countries not to suspend vaccinations against a disease that has caused more than 2.7 million deaths worldwide.

“As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

The WHO said its advisory panel was reviewing reports related to the shot and would release its findings as soon as possible. But it said it was unlikely to change its recommendations, issued last month, for widespread use, including in countries where the South African variant of the virus may reduce its efficacy.

The European Medicines Agency also said there was no indication the events were caused by the vaccination and that the number of reported blood clots was no higher than seen in the general population.

The WHO said that as of March 12, more than 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered around the world with no deaths found to have been caused by any of them.

‘Unusual’ symptoms

The handful of reported side effects in Europe have upset vaccination programs already under pressure over slow rollouts and vaccine scepticism in some countries.

The Netherlands said on Monday it had seen 10 cases of possible noteworthy adverse side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine, hours after the government put its vaccination program on hold following reports of potential side effects in other countries.

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Investigations into potential side effects were complicated as the history of each case and circumstances surrounding a death or illness are examined.

The European Medicines Agency said that as of March 10, a total of 30 cases of blood clotting had been reported among close to five million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot in the European Economic Area, which links 30 European countries.

It comes as emergency authorisation for the AstraZeneca vaccine could occur within a month in the US, as results of a 32,000-person US study with the vaccine are analysed.

“We expect data from our US Phase III trial to be available soon, and we plan to file for emergency use authorisation shortly thereafter,” AstraZeneca spokeswoman Michele Meixell said in a statement.

Reuters, Rachel Clun, Josh Dye

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Source: Germany, Italy, France to halt AstraZeneca shots, further hitting EU vaccination campaign

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