Berlin suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine for below-60s

German state halts use of COVID vaccine amid resurgent fears of blood clots as a rare side effect.

About 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in Germany so far [File: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]

The German state of Berlin is again suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for people below 60 over reports of blood clots.

Berlin’s top health official, Dilek Kalayci, said on Tuesday that the decision was taken as a precaution before a meeting of representatives from all of Germany’s 16 states after the country’s medical regulator reported 31 cases of rare blood clots in people who had recently received the vaccine. Of them, nine people died.

All but two cases involved women aged 20 to 63, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Germany’s medical regulator.

Earlier on Tuesday, two state-owned hospitals in Berlin announced that they had stopped giving AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to female staff members below 55 years old.

The heads of five university hospitals in western Germany called for a temporary halt to the vaccine for all younger women, citing the potential risk of blood clots.

Authorities in Munich also suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged below 60 on Tuesday, Germany’s DPA news agency reported.

“Due to current developments, the city has decided, like Berlin, to suspend vaccinations with AstraZeneca for people under 60 as a precautionary measure until the question of possible complications for this group of people has been clarified,” DPA quoted a city spokesperson as saying.

About 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in Germany so far. Because the vaccine in Germany was initially limited to those below 65, the shot has been administered among younger people, particularly medical staff and teachers.

European suspensions

Many European countries briefly stopped using the British-Swedish firm’s vaccine earlier this month while investigating rare cases of blood clots in some recipients.

After a review that was triggered by the suspensions, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the AstraZeneca vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks, but that patients and doctors should be informed about rare side effects.

The World Health Organization has also said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.

Most European Union countries have since resumed its use.

But on March 19 France broke with the EMA’s guidance and said the vaccine should be given only to people aged 55 or older. France said the decision was based on evidence that the clotting affected younger people.

On Monday, Canada suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under 55, citing new concerning data from Europe.

“There is substantial uncertainty about the benefit of providing AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to adults under 55 given the potential risks,” said Shelley Deeks, vice chair of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Source: News Agencies