By Reuters Staff
COPENHAGEN/OSLO/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Denmark, Sweden and Norway said on Friday they needed more time to decide whether to use AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine even though the EU drug watchdog said the benefits outweighed the risks, prompting several countries to resume its use.
"We need time to get to the bottom of this," Soren Brostrom, head of the Danish Health Authority, told reporters on Friday.
Several European countries last week suspended use of the vaccine following reports of rare instances of blood clots in some people who had been vaccinated.
On Friday nearly a dozen of them resumed inoculations on the EMA's recommendation.
"This does not change the fact that, on the basis of a precautionary principle, we are continuing our suspension, because we need to understand this better, so that we can say with certainty that we recommend this vaccine," Brostrom said.
Health authorities in all three Scandinavian countries said they would decide on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine next week.
Norway has so far reported five cases in which recipients of the vaccine were later admitted to hospital with a combination of blood clots, bleedings and low platelets, one of whom has died.
A sixth person, who also got the vaccine, has died from brain a haemorrhage in combination with a low count of platelets.
"These cases are rare, but very serious. We can not rule out that these cases may be linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine," the Norwegian Medicines Agency said.
Sweden is also looking into isolated cases of blood clots and coagulatory issues among people who took the vaccine, including two deaths, though authorities have said any possible link to the inoculations remains uncertain.
"We know already that we have quite a few people that have begun to be hesitant about the vaccine," Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden's no-lockdown pandemic strategy, told public service broadcaster SVT.
"That means it is hugely important that we are able to issue clear communications about how and why we continue to use (the AstraZeneca vaccine)."
Both Sweden and Norway have seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Denmark has seen numbers fall and is gradually reopening society.
AstraZeneca said on Sunday a review of safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the United Kingdom and European Union with its vaccine had shown no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.