BERLIN (Reuters) – Top German public health officials said AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine was safe and Germany would continue to use it on Friday after several European countries halted its distribution amid safety concerns.
Health authorities in Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine after reports of blood clots in some people who had been vaccinated.
With Germany still facing a scarcity of vaccines and a third wave of COVID-19, the government is anxious to ensure that vaccine scepticism does not undermine the roll-out on which it is banking to bring the pandemic under control.
“Everything we know so far suggests that the benefits of the vaccine, even after every individual case reported, are greater than the risks, and that continues to be the case,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news briefing.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, added that there was no statistical evidence of excess mortality after any coronavirus shot.
“Since we’re now vaccinating the old and very old, and most people who die are of course old and very old, then there can be a chronological link between vaccination and death,” he said.
“There is no evidence that the link is statistically excessive,” Wieler added.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 12,834 to 2,545,781, the RKI said, indicating it was now at the start of a third wave and Spahn warned hard weeks were to come.
Flagging vaccine deliveries are slowing the roll-out, with Spahn describing as “unsatisfactory” reports that deliveries of AstraZeneca’s and Moderna’s vaccines could be volatile.
“We are still in a phase of absolute scarcity,” he said.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Alexander Smith)