Thailand follows Denmark in suspending AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, pending an investigation into possible side effects

·3 min read
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Adam Berry/Getty Images
  • Thailand on Friday became the first Asian country to pause the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Thailand said it was waiting for the results of investigations into potential side effects.

  • Denmark, Norway, and Iceland said they were suspending the vaccine over concerns about blood clots.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Thailand said on Friday that it had paused the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine while investigators looked into potential side effects and adverse reactions, becoming the first Asian country to make the move.

Denmark, Norway, and Iceland said on Thursday that they were suspending all use of the vaccine following several cases of blood clots among vaccinated people. Several other European countries, including Italy, have suspended a specific batch of the vaccine.

Thailand's health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, said that Thailand's decision was based on foreign data and that authorities wanted to wait for more information. His statement did not mention blood clots or name other countries.

It's not clear whether the cases reported in European countries are linked to AstraZeneca's vaccine, Charnvirakul said. More than 30 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the world, he added.

He said it was normal to slow down or pause the rollout of a vaccine while authorities investigate potential side effects.

There's no evidence that AstraZeneca's vaccine causes blood clots, and experts say any risks are outweighed by the shot's benefits.

The European Medicines Agency said on Wednesday that it was investigating the incidents. Charnvirakul said he expected this investigation to last about two weeks. The Sinovac vaccine remains available in the meantime, he added.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and members of his government were due to receive AstraZeneca's vaccine on Friday morning, but the vaccinations were postponed. The Financial Times reported that journalists were told that AstraZeneca's vaccine had been suspended only after they arrived at the health ministry to report on the vaccinations.

European countries suspended the vaccine over concerns about blood clots

On Thursday, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland announced they would pause the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine after reports of blood clots among vaccinated people.

Danish authorities said that one of these cases was related to a death in Denmark. Austrian authorities said on Sunday that a 49-year-old Austrian woman had died as a result of severe coagulation disorders after getting the shot.

In a statement to Insider, an AstraZeneca representative said that the safety of its vaccine had been "extensively studied" and that data showed the shot was "generally well tolerated."

The EMA said on Wednesday that "there is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions." It added that in the European Economic Area, 30 cases of blood clots had been reported out of close to 5 million people vaccinated.

UK experts said the proportion of vaccinated people with blood clots was no higher than in the general population.

AstraZeneca's vaccine has been granted conditional marketing authorization or emergency use authorization in more than 50 countries, including in the UK and across the European Union. The US has not authorized it.

Insider's Marianne Guenot reported early in March that AstraZeneca's vaccine had become Europe's least favorite shot. Some Europeans have turned down the AstraZeneca vaccine, and AstraZeneca and EU leaders have made mistakes that sapped public confidence, Guenot reported.

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