A woman receives AstraZeneca vaccine dose at a centre in Paris. AFP
Several European countries resumed AstraZeneca vaccinations Friday after an all-clear from EU regulators, as US President Joe Biden was set to meet his goal of having 100 million Americans inoculated weeks ahead of schedule.
Worries that AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine may cause blood clots have seen countries from Venezuela to Indonesia pause its use in recent days, a setback for the drive to vaccinate populations against a virus that has killed nearly 2.7 million people.
Germany and Italy, both of which are attempting to fight off a third wave of the coronavirus, announced they were using the jab again as of Friday after the European Medicines Agency said it was "safe and effective.”
Other European countries including the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal are also ending their suspension, while in Asia, Indonesia said it would follow suit.
The vaccine was also brought back into use in France on Friday — but just hours later, the national health regulator recommended it should only be given to people aged 55 and over, given the reported blood clots were only seen in younger people.
Prime Minister Jean Castex — who is himself 55 — received an AstraZeneca dose on Friday in a bid to reassure citizens that it is safe.
Around a third of France's population will enter a new month-long, limited lockdown from Saturday, after the country recorded its highest new caseload in nearly four months.
Non-essential businesses will close in Paris and other areas hit by the new restrictions, mainly in northern France, although schools will stay open.
In neighbouring Germany, infection rates are once again rising exponentially.
Amid these concerns, several politicians got the shot Friday, including French Prime Minister Jean Castex; Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Janez Jansa; and a German state governor. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also plans to. Britain never suspended use of AstraZeneca.
Castex, 55, said he stepped up because he wanted to show full confidence in the shot, even though he is not yet eligible under France’s rules. The former director of the Pasteur Institute, Patrick Berche, told BFMTV the move was "a very beautiful gesture.”
A year into the pandemic, infection rates are falling. Hospitals are quieter; morgues are emptier. Emboldened by vaccines, we’re dropping our masks and stepping closer. Slowly we’re reopening indoor dining, theaters, museums and schools.
The Data and Safety Monitoring Board said in a statement early on Tuesday that it was concerned that AstraZeneca may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.
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