SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Thrombosis experts have reacted furiously to the government’s decision to again stop using the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine because of a possible risk of developing blood clots, saying they have not been consulted.
The decision, they argue, has been taken on the basis of incomplete information and without any input from experts in the disease. ‘If you ignore the experts, you are verging on arrogance,’ Professor Hugo ten Cate told the Volkskrant.
‘I am becoming increasingly angry about how this has happened.’ ‘All my colleagues are baffled,’ thrombosis expert Saskia Middeldorp told broadcaster NOS. ‘It is as if the people who decide this don’t realize the implications for our vaccination programme.’
The health ministry said on Friday it is again suspending use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine following reports of serious thrombosis-related side effects pending a further review.
The decision led the 25 regional health boards to say they would stop administering the vaccine altogether to stop wastage. Only 700 appointments have been planned in for the over-60s in the coming days, split between the 70 to 80 vaccination locations.
The news is yet another blow for the Netherlands vaccination strategy, which only started in January and has been beset by problems since then.
The decision to again halt the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine follows a report by side effects monitoring group Lareb on Friday, which said that one Dutch woman has died after being given the jab although no link has yet been shown with her symptoms.
In total, Lareb has had five reports of thrombosis seven to 10 days after the AstraZeneca injection, all involving women aged 25 to 65. Some 400,000 people were given the AstraZeneca vaccine during the period the problems were reported.
Similar reports have been made elsewhere in Europe, and European scientists suggest the vaccine could result in a severe reaction by the immune system.
The decision to stop using the vaccine must be a political one, specialist Frits Rosendaal told the VK. Vascular medicine specialist Pieter Willem Kamphuisen said the move had been based on emotion, rather than science.
‘It is such a complex picture,’ he said. ‘You need experts to be able to judge what has happened. You first have to analyse the information and then draw conclusions.’ The European Medicines Agency is due to give its position on Wednesday.
‘And if it gives the green light, how are doctors going to explain that the vaccine is safe after all?’ Kamphuisen said.
The Netherlands also stopped using the vaccine for a period last month when there were earlier concerns about thrombosis, but started using it again when the European Medicines Agency said the vaccine is both safe and effective.