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March 15, 2021

Ireland became the latest country on Sunday to suspend the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZenaca and Oxford University after a Norwegian regulator reported a few recipients developed blood clots following their doses–mirroring developments in other countries that have taken similar precautions as the vaccine remains under clinical trials in the United States.
Ireland's health department recommended that the administration of AstraZeneca's vaccine be "temporarily deferred" immediately on Sunday morning, citing a report from the Norwegian Medicines Agency that highlighted four instances of "serious blood clotting events" in adults who had received the vaccine.

 

In a statement, the nation's deputy chief medical officer said it has not concluded that there is "any link" between the vaccine and the cases, but that the decision to suspend its administration was made out of precaution and pending further information.

Other countries, including Iceland, Denmark and Norway, suspended their administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week on separate concerns over blood clotting, but the World Health Organization and regional authorities have said there is no evidence the vaccines caused the coagulation. 

On Saturday, for instance, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health announced that three health workers under the age of 50 were receiving treatment for "severe cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages" after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine but reiterated that the conditions were not conclusively linked to the vaccine.

Meanwhile, northern Italy's Piedmont region, which counts some 4 million residents, also suspended its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday after a teacher who had received the shot died on Saturday, Reuters reported, following two deaths under similar conditions reported in nearby Sicily.

Domestically, the AstraZeneca vaccine is still undergoing phase-three clinical trials and has therefore not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the New York Times reported Friday that the federal government has purchased roughly 30 million doses that are being packaged in an Ohio facility.

"An analysis of our safety data of more than 10 million records has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country with [our] Covid-19 vaccine," AstraZeneca said in a statement to CNN Friday.
“More than 335 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally so far, and no deaths have been found to have been caused by COVID-19 vaccines,” WHO official Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday, echoing AstraZeneca's statement.

The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, developed in conjunction with Oxford University, has faced more scrutiny than its three approved counterparts in the U.S. (those developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson). The vaccine's clinical trials were paused domestically in early September for over one month after a patient fell ill in Great Britain, but the FDA ultimately concluded it was safe to resume the trials, which have since shown to be about 82% effective at preventing the most common Covid-19 strain. In February, the vaccine received an emergency use listing from the WHO, allowing it to begin distribution in low- and middle-income countries, and in January, the vaccine was granted approval for use in the European Union. Its fate in the U.S., however, remains in limbo, with no concrete plans for emergency authorization to date. 

President Joe Biden on Thursday directed all 50 states to drop their eligibility requirements for Covid-19 vaccines by May 1, effectively opening up shots to every American adult who wants one. As of Sunday, 106 million vaccines have been administered, according to the CDC.