Nicola Sturgeon has today addressed concerns over coronavirus vaccinations after some countries suspended the roll-out of the jab.

The First Minister’s comments came as the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland paused their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, following a small number of reports of people experiencing blood clots in the days and weeks after their vaccination.

The full suspension in a number of countries comes despite the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency stating there is no indication of a link between the vaccine and reports of blood clots.

What has Nicola Sturgeon said?

Speaking at her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said there is “no current evidence” that the vaccine is causing an increase in blood clots.

She said: “In the UK, the decision to suspend use of the vaccine is a matter for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA).

“The MRHA has confirmed to us that there is no current evidence of an increase in blood clots being caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The MRHA is continuing to monitor this carefully and remains in regular contact with other regulators.

“There is, however, significant and growing evidence of the benefits of vaccination reducing death, illness and we hope now reducing transmission as well.

“For all these reasons and based on the advice and opinion of the MRHA, I’d continue to urge people to come forward for vaccination including with the AstraZeneca vaccine when you are invited to do so.”


Which countries are involved?

Ireland and the Netherlands on Sunday joined a list that already included Denmark, Norway and Iceland, which said they are temporarily halting all AstraZeneca vaccinations to investigate further.

The Netherlands said it is suspending its AstraZeneca rollout as a precaution for two weeks after a small number of new reports in Denmark and Norway of blood clotting and lowered levels of blood platelets in people aged under 50.

Bulgaria’s prime minister said its suspension would last until the EMA issued a written statement that the vaccine is safe.

Italy also followed Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Lithuania in banning jabs from one particular batch of one million AstraZeneca vaccines, which was sent to 17 countries, after reports of a death.

Very few details have been given about the individuals, including whether they had any underlying conditions that already raised the risk of blood clots.

Thailand and Congo said they would delay use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Glasgow Times:

- What do the European and UK medicines regulators say?

 The MHRA had already issued a statement last week saying more than 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered across the UK with no issues.

After the Republic of Ireland’s decision to suspend use, Dr Phil Bryan, MHRA vaccines safety lead said: “We are aware of the action in Ireland.

“We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause.”

He said people “should still go and get their Covid-19 vaccine when asked to do so.”

The EMA said in a statement on Thursday that the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and that jabs can continue to be administered while it carries out a review into any incidents of blood clots.

It said that as of March 10 there were just 30 reports of blood clots among almost five million people given the vaccine across Europe.

What about the World Health Organisation (WHO)?

 Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO is continuing to keep a close eye on the safety of the vaccines but said it was important to note the EMA “has said there is no indication of a link between the vaccine and blood clots and that the vaccine can continue to be used while its investigation is ongoing”.

His comments echoed remarks made by WHO spokeswoman Dr Margaret Harris, who described the vaccine as “excellent”.

Glasgow Times:

Are UK scientists worried?

No. The overwhelming scientific opinion is that there is no certain link between blood clots and the vaccine, and the reported cases could easily be coincidental.

They argue the risks from Covid-19 far outweigh any potential side-effects from the jab, with many saying blood clots are fairly common, regardless of vaccination.

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The problem with spontaneous reports of suspected adverse reactions to a vaccine are the enormous difficulty of distinguishing a causal effect from a coincidence.

“This is especially true when we know that Covid-19 disease is very strongly associated with blood clotting and there have been hundreds if not many thousands of deaths caused by blood clotting as a result of Covid-19 disease.

“The first thing to do is to be absolutely certain that the clots did not have some other cause, including Covid-19.”

What has AstraZeneca said?

The pharmaceutical giant said a “careful review of all available safety data” of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the EU and UK with the AstraZeneca jab has shown “no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.”

Its chief medical officer Dr Ann Taylor said the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group “is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population”.