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image captionThe AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine
Thailand has delayed the rollout of the AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine over reports of blood clots.
The country’s prime minister and several cabinet members were due to kick off the country’s vaccination drive by getting the jab on Friday. This has now been cancelled.
The delay comes after a number of countries, including Denmark and Norway, suspended the use of the jab.
Around 5 million Europeans have already received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Of this figure, about 30 cases had reported “thromboembolic events” – or developing blood clots.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday that there was no indication the jab was causing the blood clots, adding that its “benefits continue to outweigh its risks”.
However, Thai public health ministry officials said that the batch of AstraZeneca vaccines are different to those distributed in Europe, adding that blood clot problems have not been commonly detected amongst Asians.
“Though the quality of AstraZeneca is good, some countries have asked for a delay,” Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, an advisor for the country’s Covid-19 vaccine committee, told reporters at a media conference.
“We will delay [as well]”.
AstraZeneca said the drug’s safety has been studied extensively in clinical trials.
The first batch of 117,300 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in Thailand on 24 Feb, together with 200,000 doses of China’s Coronavac vaccine.
More than 30,000 people in Thailand have already received Coronavac since the country kicked off its vaccination program on 28 February. Thailand says it will continue with its Coronavac rollout.
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Denmark, Norway and Iceland have temporarily suspended the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Italy and Austria, meanwhile, have stopped using certain batches of the drug as a precautionary measure.
In an earlier statement, the EMA said Denmark’s decision was a “precautionary measure [taken] while a full investigation is ongoing into reports of blood clots in people who received the vaccine, including one case in Denmark where a person died”.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed with the University of Oxford, is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it can’t cause illness.
Once injected, it teaches the body’s immune system how to fight the real virus, should it need to.