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German state suspends AstraZeneca vaccine use for under-60s

(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, FILE)

BERLIN (AP) — The German state of Berlin has again suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for those aged under 60 due to new reports of unusual blood clots in people who have received the shots, officials said Tuesday.

The decision was taken as a precaution ahead of a meeting later Tuesday of representatives from all of Germany’s 16 states and further recommendations expected from national medical regulators, said Berlin’s top health official, Dilek Kalayci.

The meeting was called after the country’s medical regulator announced that it had received a total of 31 reports of rare blood clots in people who recently received the vaccine. Nine of the people died and all but two of the cases involved women aged 20 to 63, the Paul Ehrlich Institute said.

Reports of an unusual form of blood clot in the head, known as sinus vein thrombosis, prompted several European countries to temporarily halt the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month.

After a review by medical experts, the European Medicines Agency concluded the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks but recommended that warnings about possible rare side effects should be provided to patients and doctors.

Most European Union countries, including Germany, have since resumed use of the vaccine.

Earlier Tuesday, two state-owned hospitals in Berlin announced that they had stopped giving AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to female staff members aged under 55 The heads of five university hospitals in western Germany called for a temporary halt to the vaccine for all younger women, citing the blood clot risk.

Kalayci, the Berlin state health minister, said the suspension of AstraZeneca vaccines for younger people was a precautionary measure.

“We have not had a case of serious side effects in Berlin yet,” she said, adding that all of those who had received the AstraZeneca shot already could rest assured that it provides good protection against the coronavirus.

“Still, we need to treat it carefully and wait for the talks taking place at the federal level,” said Kalayci.

Some 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in Germany so far.

Meanwhile, some countries are still hesitant about giving the AstraZeneca shot to older people. In Madrid, residents aged between 60 to 65 years old started receiving the vaccine Tuesday ahead of those aged between 66 to 79 because Spain has yet to revise new data provided by AstraZeneca about how well it works in the older age group.

Spain is currently using the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for people over 80.

Spanish health authorities have said that they are hoping to speed up the rollout of vaccines with the arrival of the jab developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, which has also been approved for use in Europe and requires one shot only.

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