ZURICH (Reuters) – Denmark is examining options for sharing AstraZeneca’s vaccines with other nations after it halted use of the shots over concerns about rare blood clots, the World Health Organization’s Europe head said on Thursday.
Denmark this week became the first country to stop using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine altogether, as European officials investigate reports of very rare blood clots combined with low platelet counts that have occurred in the bloc, as well as Britain.
The decision has sparked some debate in Denmark about what to do with the leftover vaccines. Opposition parties argue the authorities should make the shots available to Danes willing to take it.
Denmark currently has just over 200,000 vaccines, but is set to receive another 3.5 million from previous agreements, the State Serum Institute told Reuters.
The Danish Health Ministry was not immediately available for comment.
The WHO, which along with Britain and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) continue to recommend AstraZeneca’s shot on the grounds that the benefits outweigh the risks, has been pushing countries not to hoard vaccines that they are not using.
World Bank President David Malpass also called on countries on Thursday to contribute their “excess” doses of COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries.
The lion’s share of vaccines distributed globally, so far, have gone to wealthier nations.
“I did have this conversation with Dr. Soren Brostrom, director general of the Danish (Health Authority) yesterday and I understand that the ministry of foreign affairs of Denmark is ready to, or looking already into options, for sharing AstraZeneca vaccines with poorer countries,” WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge told reporters.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said her country would gladly take the shots: “We still have less vaccines then people willing to be vaccinated. Therefore, Lithuania has expressed readiness to take as many doses of Astra Zeneca, as Denmark is ready to share.”
WHO officials stopped short of criticising Denmark’s move to halt use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, saying every nation should have the flexibility to make decisions about their vaccination programs, based on their rates of vaccination, infection and hospitalisation.
Denmark’s Brostrom has said his country had come far in inoculating the elderly population most at risk of contracting a serious form of COVID-19, and that younger groups were at lower risk of complications from the disease. That had to be weighed against the possible vaccine side effects, he said.
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