Why countries are suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine 

An assortment of countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine out of fear that it might cause blood clots. That includes Norway, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Latvia, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Austria stopped using one particular batch. 

Sorry, I may have lost Bulgaria in there somewhere, and quite possibly a few other countries. I may also have added some, but every last one of the countries I listed exists. I’m almost certain of that. And unless you’re in one of them, you don’t need to worry about whether I have the full list. On the other hand, if you are in one, you’ll have already heard about it from a more reliable source.

C’mon, I’m not a newspaper. I do my best. 

Whatever the full list is, the European medicines regulator says it sees no evidence that the vaccine caused the blood clots. Suspending its use is worrying, it says, because the risk of getting Covid is greater than any risk posed by the vaccine.

It’s worth noting that a fair number of countries haven’t suspended its use and don’t think there’s a danger. And all of them also exist and are completely real. 

Irrelevant photo: alexander

The European Medical Authority’s executive director Emer Cooke said about the blood clots, “At present there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, they have not come up in the clinical trials and they are not listed as known or expected side events with this vaccine.”  

The EMA is looking into the issue more closely and is due to report on Thursday, but it considers a link very unlikely. The World Health Organization also sees no link.

So what’s the story on blood clots? A woman in Denmark died after getting vaccinated. She had a low number of platelets, blood clots in small and large vessels, and bleeding. Another death was reported in Norway, along with a handful of non-fatal cases with similar “unusual” reactions, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said. 

The question in all of this is whether the blood clots are caused by the vaccine or whether they’re unrelated events that happened to happen to people who’d been vaccinated recently, sort of like people deciding to buy jelly beans after they got vaccinated. If you start counting the people who do that, you might find a surprising number, but that wouldn’t be proof that the vaccine caused them to buy jelly beans. The best way to show a link is to compare the number who bought jelly beans to the number of unvaccinated people who did. 

You’ll want to run that experiment in the US, though, where it’s easier to find jelly beans.

Britain hasn’t seen a spike in blood clots despite having pumped more than 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine into people’s arms.

AstraZeneca–and here I mean the company, not the vaccine–counted 15 incidents of post-vaccination deep-vein thrombosis (a blood clot in a vein) and 22 of pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that’s entered the lungs) in Britain. That is, they said, “much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed Covid-19 vaccines.”

You’re welcome to untangle that sentence if you want. I’m going to quote and run.

No I’m not. It’s the lower and similar that throws me. I think I know what they’re saying but they’d have done better to make two sentences out of that so their points of comparison were clear. 

I know. Everyone’s a critic.

The cheesier end of the British press–which is cheesy indeed–is treating this as an opportunity to wave the flag. We knew those Europeans had it in for us. See what they’re like? So far, though, none of them have proposed sending gunboats to support our flagship vaccine. If they do, I’ll let you know.


Variants news

One the other hand, a new double-blind study of 750 people exposed to the South African Covid variant found that the AZ vaccine is only 10.4% effective against mild to moderate cases. On the bright side, though, nobody was hospitalized and a second-generation AZ vaccine is in development that will close that gap in its protective fencing.


Two cases of a Covid strain first identified in the Philippines have been found in Britain. It too may be more resistant to vaccines. 


And finally, an irrelevant feelgood story

After getting his second vaccination in Massachusetts, cellist Yo-Yo Ma sat down and gave a fifteen-minute concert for health workers and the people waiting in line behind him. 

Ma is internationally known and famous enough that even I know who he is. When he went for his first shot, he scoped out the surroundings, then brought his cello with him for the second shot. 

He wanted to give something back, he said.

36 thoughts on “Why countries are suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine 

    • It’ll be interesting to see what tomorrow’s report has to say about the AZ vaccine. I got the AZ and would again. The balance of risks–if it does turn out to be a risk–is very much in its favor.

      I’m glad he’s scheduled. It must be a weight off your minds.


  1. As Jonathan Van Tam said tonight, one in a zillion people get jaundice from taking paracetamol. That doesn’t make the headlines, so there’s no panic about it. As with anything, the fact that it’s only one in a zillion isn’t much consolation if that one person is you, but you might as well say that we should ban all buses because one in a zillion people gets run over by a bus.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I got the Pfizer first shot a week ago and had an urge to buy Marshmallow Peeps, but that may be because where I sat waiting to see if I had any effects was right near the drug store’s Easter Candy display.. I barely had a sore arm.
    One serious note : the preliminary questions did include asking me if I was on any blood thinners (meaning I may have been predisposed to clots without them) I’m not, so I don’t know what would have been done if I’d said yes.

    Yo Yo Ma was one of the originators of a number of musicians putting on online performances to brighten up the day shortly after the pandemic clamped down. He is probably relieved to be able to be out and about to do it now.
    He is another rare gem !

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t known that about Ma. He sounds like an impressive guy, and I love thinking about someone with the chutzpa to just sit down, unheralded and uninvited, and start playing.

      Be careful with those peeps. They’re contraindicated, I believe.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, there are blood clots happening for numbers of reasons and then there is a rare type of thrombosis, cerebral venous thrombosis, with an incidence (in Germany) of < 50/annually but now with eight reported cases within 4-16 d after vaccination (three deaths) is a reason to look into it.
    Keeping fingers crossed that risk assessment will allow the vaccine to be continued with cautions.
    More here:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It appears the US is stomping its feets and holding its breffs over the matter. in the meantime they’re sending millions, read that again, millions, of shots to Mexico and here (Canada) before the bloody things expire. Their loss is our gain, I suppose, but it must be hell for people waiting for their shots just to get screwed over yet again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know that about sending doses to Mexico and Canada. I do know that if they ever get around to scheduling me for my second shot, I’ll be happy to take the risk. It’s a smaller one than playing it “safe.” If I were one of the people scheduled then canceled, I’d be tearing my hair out. Or possibly someone else’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hopefully a safe vaccine will become available to every human being a lot sooner than anticipated. …
    I typically receive the annual influenza vaccination every fall, though for the last few years I’ve specifically asked for a placebo
    … to which I receive a serious look by the nurse, who’s clearly not amused by my attempt at humor on this otherwise serious topic.

    Liked by 1 person

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