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Romania and Thailand suspends AstraZeneca vaccine, Germany and France not worried

Christian Fernsby |
The Romanian health authorities decided late Thursday to temporarily quarantine over 4,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, coming from the same batch suspended in Italy, but to continue the vaccination with the serum from the other batches.

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The batch involved is ABV 2856, announced the National Coordinating Committee for COVID-19 Vaccination Activities (CNCAV) in a statement, adding that Romania received 81,600 doses of the batch on Feb. 7, and more than 77,000 doses have been used so far.

The suspension decision was made at a meeting late in the day, which was attended by the representatives of CNCAV, the National Institute of Public Health, the Health Ministry, as well as the National Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices.

The remaining 4,317 doses of the vaccines in question will be sealed until the European Medicines Agency completes its evaluation, said the official statement, adding that "the vaccination will continue with all other batches of AstraZeneca vaccines currently in Romania ... so that the immunization process is not affected."

The decision to quarantine the batch was made as "an extreme precautionary measure," solely on the basis of the event reported in Italy, the statement said.

According to international reports, the Italian Medicines Agency on Thursday banned the use of the ABV 2856 batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to "serious adverse events" after inoculation.

The statement also said that Romania was not among the 17 EU countries that received the doses of the ABV 5300 batch, suspended over blood clot fears by several other member states of the European Union.

Romania added 5,236 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest daily infection count since Jan. 6 this year, bringing the country's total caseload to 845,352.

The authorities hope to alleviate the pandemic by stepping up its vaccination campaign that started on Dec. 27, 2020.

So far, 2,019,757 doses have been administered to 1,336,827 people, among whom 653,897 people have received the first dose and 682,930 others have got the second dose as well.

Thailand announced Friday to temporarily halt the roll-out of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination after some European nations suspended the use of the vaccine due to concerns of blood clotting.

"It is not certain whether the blood clot symptom is directly related to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine is good, but for the safety of the Thai people, we decide to suspend the use of the vaccine until further evaluation," Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Public Health told a news conference.

"The vaccines supplied to Thailand were not the same batch as in Europe, but made in Asia," Yong said.

Thailand launched its national inoculation program on Feb. 28, using vaccines developed by China's Sinovac. It has ordered Sinovac vaccines with the first doses having arrived on Feb. 24. The country also received AstraZeneca vaccine on the same day.

Thailand has so far confirmed more than 26,600 COVID-19 cases and 85 deaths.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran on Thursday said AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will not be suspended in France after some European countries decided to temporarily stop using the vaccine following reports of cases of blood clots.

"At this point, neither Europe, nor France, nor Germany consider that there is a proven excess risk," said Veran. He told reporters that French drug safety agency, in line with its European Union counterpart, did not notice any reason to halt injections with the vaccine.

"The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine are higher than the risks," he said. "We are looking systematically at each declared case of undesired serious side-effects... Each case is analysed for a link of causality with the vaccination, which so far has not been formally identified."

Earlier in the day, health authorities in Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine following reports of the formation of blood clots in some recently vaccinated people.

In early March, France allowed people younger than 75 and with comorbidities to get the AstraZeneca shot, which initially targeted those under 65.

So far, 4.54 million French citizens have got a first vaccine jab and 1.26 million have received the two doses. Some 286,000 people were vaccinated on Thursday, marking "a record" since the country launched its vaccination campaign in late December 2020, according to the minister.

At a weekly briefing on the epidemic situation, Veran warned "the situation is tense and worrying" with an average of 20,000 cases per day and the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) accounts for 80 percent of France's resuscitation beds.

In the greater Paris region, the coronavirus indicators were "particularly worrying" with an inhabitant admitted to ICU every 12 minutes. A total of 1,080 patients have been put on ventilator in Ile-de-France's hospitals, with the figure could rise to 1,500 by the end of March, he added.

Veran said that if COVID-19 continues to circulate at its current level, the government would take "the all necessary measures" to put the virus under control.

On Thursday, France confirmed 27,166 new coronavirus infections, pushing the total count to 3.99 million. The country's death toll rose by 265 in one day to 89,830.

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