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Belgium to decide this week on use of AstraZeneca

Belgium intends to wait for advice from the European Union’s Medicines Agency (EMA) before making any changes to its vaccination policy and the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.  At present the vaccine is used on all adults no matter their age. Fresh advice is expected on Tuesday.  A political decision in Belgium could come as early as Wednesday.

Germany and the Netherlands have decided no longer to use the AstraZeneca vaccines on under 60s.  The decision comes following reports of exceptional thromboses in young women after they got the jab.  Vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme (Antwerp University) is a member of the High Council for Health. He explains that when the EMA approved the vaccine a number of countries felt there was not enough data on its effectiveness among over 55s.  As a result the vaccine was initially used on under 55s.  When fresh information emerged from the US and the UK showing its effectiveness in older people, it was used on all adults. Reports about exceptional blood clots followed.  Some countries decided to suspend the use of the vaccine.  However, the EMA then ruled that the advantages of the vaccines outweighed possible risks. Some countries are now once again suspending use of the vaccine triggering concern among the population at large in countries where the vaccine is still in use.

The EMA is currently examining fresh data with a view to formulating new advice. In the Netherlands 5 exceptional thromboses have been recorded after 400,000 people were immunised.  In the UK the figure is 30 out of 18 million immunisations.

“The figures illustrate how rare it is.  This makes it exceptionally difficult to prove a causal link” says Prof Van Damme.

Consultations are now taking place at the European level ahead of the formulation of a recommendation that will be put to politicians, who will have the final say.

Prof Van Damme expects fresh European advice by Tuesday and a decision in Belgium on Wednesday.

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