Denmark Extends Suspension of AstraZeneca Vaccine for 3 More Weeks

Denmark is extending its suspension of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine for another three weeks, while Sweden will only use it on people older than 65, as concerns over severe side effects linger.

Danish health officials said their research to date hasn’t shown a causal link. But at the same time, it’s not yet possible to rule out a connection, Soren Brostrom, head of the Danish Health Authority, told reporters in Copenhagen on Thursday.

In Sweden, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said a local review showed that people over 65 aren’t at risk of the “rare, serious side effects” that triggered panic earlier this month. “However, there are a number of cases among people under 65, and new cases have been registered in various places in Europe; therefore we’ll continue the suspension for that group until we know more about the risks.”

The Nordic region has remained skeptical toward Astra despite reassurances from the European Medicines Agency that it’s safe and effective. Finland said earlier this week it will also limit its use of Astra to people over 65, while Norway has yet to announce its decision. Meanwhile, there are signs people are increasingly reluctant to receive the Astra shot. A poll on Thursday showed that a third of Danes would turn it down if offered.

Danish health officials acknowledged that the decision to keep Astra on hold is to err on the side of caution, and said their basic assumption remains that the company’s vaccine is safe and effective.

Brostrom said it’s possible Denmark might lift its suspension before the three weeks are up. He also said the research currently being conducted into blood clots has been extended to include Covid-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., not because of specific concerns, but as a precaution, he said.

Tegnell said that when it comes to older people, who are more at risk of being infected and falling ill, Sweden has “concluded that AstraZeneca is a very effective vaccine and there is a big need for protection against Covid-19 among the elderly.”

Sweden has suffered a much higher Covid mortality rate than its Nordic neighbors, in part after the disease killed thousands of senior citizens at care homes when the pandemic first hit. That’s put pressure on authorities to step up efforts to fight the virus.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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