Ten European nations suspend AstraZeneca vaccine as Saskatchewan holds drive-thru clinic

By: Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury
Regina, Montreal – While Saskatchewan’s first batch of AstraZeneca vaccinations are taking place at a drive-thru clinic in Regina for 64 year-olds, ten nations across Europe have suspended its usage in recent days due to reports of blood clots in rare instances, and two reports of deaths.
That’s according to CNN, which reported on by noon on March 15 that Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France and Spain had all suspended usage of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Germany, Italy, France and Spain had announced their suspensions on March 15, while the others had done so since March 11.
CNN said, “On Thursday (March 11), Denmark suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations for 14 days as a ‘precautionary measure’ as it investigates ‘signs of a possible serious side effect in the form of fatal blood clots’ after one Danish person died following vaccination, according to Danish health officials.”
In another story, CNN noted that Norway also reported a death, saying, “A person who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Norway has died following blood clots, bleeding and a low platelet count, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said Monday.”
CNN also reported, as of March 15, “Europe has nearly eight million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine sitting unused, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data shows as of Sunday.
“That is more than half the total number of doses distributed to European nations, the data shows.”
Canada, however, is continuing to use the vaccine.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the AstraZeneca vaccine while at a press conference in Montreal, touting electric busses. He said, “Health Canada, and our experts and scientists have spent an awful lot of time making sure that every vaccine approved in Canada is both safe and effective. Therefore, the best vaccine for you to take is the very first one that is offered to you. That is how we get through this as quickly as possible and as safely as possible, and quickly on the announcement of the day.”
He noted, in French, that Canada has not received vaccines from the batch of vaccine in Europe in question. Canada’s AstraZeneca vaccine is coming from India.
Asked about the developments with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health responded with this emailed statement: “Health Canada and public health officials across Canada are aware of the adverse events reported in Denmark.
“European safety bodies are monitoring the adverse events, but are indicating at this time that the incidents do not indicate that the vaccine is unsafe.
“The UK, which has used AstraZeneca extensively, has not reported adverse effects beyond that which would be expected with any vaccine.
“We will continue to monitor but are not suspending our use of AstraZeneca at this point in time.”
The Opposition New Democratic Party said by email on March 15 it wouldn’t be commenting.
Asked when he would get vaccinated, Trudeau said he was glad that his mother was vaccinated last week. He said, “Over the coming weeks we’re going to be receiving more than a million vaccines a week into Canada. Vaccinations are going to ramp up across the country and more and more essential workers are going to be able to get vaccinated. I’m focused on getting vaccines for as many Canadians as possible as quickly as possible, not overly focused on, when my turn will come when it comes, I will gladly get vaccinated. But I will wait my turn.”