Updated | Spain, France and Italy join growing list of EU countries suspending Astrazeneca vaccine use

Spain will suspend use of the Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine for 15 days • France and Italy will stop administering the AstraZeneca vaccine pending an assessment by the EU Medicines Agency

Spain, France and Italy have joined the growing list of EU countries that have halted use of the Astrazeneca vaccine against COVID-19 amid concerns of blood-clotting among those who received the jab.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country will be suspending use of the vaccine until at least Tuesday afternoon, with Italy's drug regulator also announcing a temporary ban.

Spain's health minister Carolina Darias said that they will stop using the vaccine for two weeks while experts review its safety.

Earlier today, the German government suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the same reasons.

The German health ministry said the decision was taken as a “precaution” and on the advice of the country's national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation of the cases.

The issue first arose when Austria recorded two patients who developed blood clots after taking the vaccine. The particular batch had also been used in Malta.

EMA had recommended the Astrazeneca vaccination programme continue as planned, with the Maltese health authorities saying they were following the situation closely and monitoring patients who have received the vaccine from the particular consignment.

“The particular consignment was also used in our country a number of weeks ago. While there are no more vaccines of the batch, Health Authorities have not received any reports of side effects from people vaccinated by the batch in question,” the ministry said. 

According to AstraZeneca, there have been 15 instances of deep vein thrombosis and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and the UK.

Despite concerns, both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) have come out saying that there is no proven link between the Astrazeneca vaccine and blood clots.

EMA issued a statement on Monday saying that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects.

The agency's safety committee will further review the information on Tuesday, and has called for an extraordinary meeting on Thursday 18 March to conclude on the information gathered and decide on any further actions that may need to be taken.