SPAIN’S decision to suspend the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has halted the immunisation of essential workers across the country.
The move came after the detection of cases of thrombosis in patients across the European Union and has thrown Madrid’s target of having 70% of the adult population vaccinated by the end of summer into doubt.
The government has opted to wait until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issues a ruling on any link between the Anglo-Swedish shot and blood clots.
A third of vaccines being administered were AstraZeneca – Spain has already decided to only use the shot for essential workers aged under 55 until there was more evidence of its efficacy in older people – which could mean the vaccination programme is slowed by the same amount.
Since December last year, Spain has administered 5.7 million shots but just 1.7 million, or 3.6% of the population, have had both jabs. All three vaccines in use, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna require two doses.
The government believes the arrival of the Janssen vaccine next month, which only requires one jab, will speed up the programme again and deliveries of other vaccine is also being geared up.
Amós García, the president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology, said: “The decision to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccination comes in the context of a lack of vaccine generally.
“What’s more, this move will create alarm, fear and panic in the population. We will have to move heaven and earth to recover the credibility of this vaccine.”
And central government spokesperson María Jesús Montero has insisted the
temporary suspension of AstraZeneca will not materially effect ‘of the vaccine calendar’.
Both the EMA and the World Health Organisation have advised the AstraZeneca is safe and should continue to be administered.