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Indonesia halts the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 after Thailand, in fear of blood clots

March 16, 2021 | 19:18

After Thailand, Indonesia became the second country in Southeast Asia that holds off the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine due to reports of blood clots among some recipients in Europe.

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Indonesia will delay the administering of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine due to reports of blood clots among some recipients in Europe and would await a review from the World Health Organization (WHO), its health minister said on Monday.

The European Medicines Agency has said there is no indication that the events were caused by the vaccination, a view echoed Friday by the WHO, while AstraZeneca said on Sunday its review has shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots, Reuters reported.

“To be conservative, the food and drug agency delayed implementation of AstraZeneca (vaccine) as it awaits confirmation from the WHO,” health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a parliamentary hearing on Monday.

Indonesia received 1.1 million doses of theAstraZeneca vaccine via the COVAX vaccine-alliance scheme this month and is set to receive some 10 million more in the next two months.

The decision will leave Indonesia with just one approved vaccine, developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, for use in its nationwide vaccination drive.

Indonesian health authorities had administered 2.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccine since mass vaccination campaign began on Jan. 13, according to government figures released on February 27, 2021.

A total of 1.6 million citizens received the vaccine, with around 1 million already getting double shots of the vaccine produced jointly by state-run pharmaceutical company Bio Farma and China’s Sinovac Biotech.

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Photo: Reuters

“We aim 38 million more citizens in this second stage, meaning 76 million doses of the vaccine,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin was quoted by Antara news agency

He said the government expected that the current vaccination drive targeting elderly citizens and public sector workers be completed by the end of June, before it can go to other priority groups.

“The problem is not about setting a deadline, it’s more about the limited supply of the vaccine,” Budi said during a visit to the East Java capital of Surabaya to inspect the inoculation of elderly people there.

Thailand delays vaccine rollout over blood clot fears

Thailand has delayed the rollout of the AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine over reports of blood clots, despite there being no evidence of a link to the jab.

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, according to BBC.

Thailand's public health ministry said it made the decision because the country had not been "hard hit" by the virus and it had other vaccines it could rely on in the meantime.

There have been about 30 cases in Europe of "thromboembolic events" - or developing blood clots - after the vaccine was administered.

On Friday, Bulgaria became the latest country to suspend use of the vaccine, and it asked for a written statement from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) accounting for the jab's safety.

The 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".

AstraZeneca said the drug's safety had been studied extensively in clinical trials.

Other countries, including Portugal, Australia, Mexico and the Philippines, have said they are continuing their roll-out.

"Though the quality of AstraZeneca is good, some countries have asked for a delay," Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, an adviser for the country's Covid-19 vaccine committee, told reporters at a news conference.

"We will delay [as well]."

However, Thai public health ministry officials clarified that the batch of AstraZeneca vaccines is different from those distributed in Europe, adding that blood clot problems had not been commonly detected amongst Asians.

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 programme on 28 February. Thailand says it will continue with its Coronavac rollout.

AstraZeneca in other countries

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was no evidence the vaccine had caused problems, and people should still go and get vaccinated when asked to do so.

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More than 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have now been administered across the UK, according to the MHRA.

Australia, which has already been sent 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has been explaining its decision to continue with the AstraZeneca jab.

"At the moment the advice very clearly from the doctors is that this is a safe vaccine and we want the rollout to continue. Cool heads need to prevail," said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

The Philippines health department has also said that there is "no reason" to halt the vaccination there.

South Korea also appears to be going ahead with its rollout, though some have voiced concerns. Around 785,000 vaccine doses have arrived there already.

Authorities in the country recently said that the deaths of eight people within days of receiving the vaccine had no link to the jab. They later found there was no link between the vaccine and the deaths.

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".

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