Netherlands joins growing list of EU nations to SUSPEND use of AstraZeneca jab over blood clot fears

The Netherlands has joined a growing list of EU nations to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca jab amid fears of blood clots - with Italy set to start a new lockdown and cases spiking in France. 

The Dutch government said the vaccine was being suspended until March 29 as a precaution after Denmark and Norway raised fears of potentially serious side effects.

It comes despite reassurances from the WHO and AstraZeneca that the vaccine is safe, and findings by EU regulators that the occurrence of blood clots is no higher than in the general population. 

The UK also came to AstraZeneca's defence today with a member of the government's vaccine committee saying that 'the risks of not having the Covid vaccination far outweigh the risks from the vaccinations'. 

But Dutch authorities have opted for caution on the eve of a snap election which will see voters deliver their verdict on the country's coronavirus response in three days of balloting, weeks after a curfew prompted three nights of rioting in major cities.    

The Netherlands is the fifth country to pause its roll-out, following Ireland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway, while others including Austria and Italy have black-listed a particular batch of the jab over fears of side-effects. 

Ireland is relying on the delivery of more than 800,000 AstraZeneca doses between April and June to reach its target of vaccinating 80 per cent of adults by the end of June - raising the prospect that the delay will prevent it from exiting lockdown.  

Austria's fears were raised by a 49-year-old nurse who died soon after getting the jab, while Norway said three health workers who recently had the jab were being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets.   

But AstraZeneca says it has found no increased risk of blood clot conditions in its analysis of 17million administered doses - saying that the numbers 'are lower than the number that would have occurred naturally in the unvaccinated population'.   

The latest setback to the EU roll-out means that many countries remain vulnerable to a third wave of infections with only a small share of the population vaccinated.  

Italy is set to begin a new lockdown on Monday, while Paris could also be facing tighter measures as cases rise, with Germany, Sweden, Poland, Hungary and non-EU member Serbia also seeing a climb in infection rates.   

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