Denmark became the first country on Wednesday to plan to permanently stop administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine a month after it stopped using it after reports that a small number of recipients had developed a rare but serious bleeding disorder.
The country's health authority director-general Soeren Brostroem said Denmark could stop using the vaccine as the pandemic was under control and it could rely on two other vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
The Danish announcement is another setback for the AstraZeneca shot, which is easy to store and relatively cheap, and should serve as the basis for vaccination campaigns around the world.
The country initially stopped using the vaccine on March 11, along with Iceland and Norway. Several other European countries including France, Germany and Italy followed suit last month.
The European Union's Medicines Agency, the European Medicines Agency, later recommended countries continue to use the vaccine, saying its benefits far outweighed the potential risks for most people.
Last week the European regulator listed blood clots as a possible very rare side effect of the vaccine.
Several countries that suspended and resumed use of the vaccine have since announced plans to discontinue use in younger people. The UK, which has given around 20 million AstraZeneca doses, said it would offer alternative vaccines to people under 30.
"Based on the science, our overall assessment is that there is a real risk of serious side effects associated with using AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine," said Dr. Brostroem, the Danish health officer, in a statement. "We have therefore decided to remove the vaccine from our vaccination program."
"If Denmark were in a completely different situation, for example in the midst of a violent third outbreak and a health system under pressure," he added, "then I would not hesitate to use the vaccine, even if it were rare." but serious complications related to its use. "
Danish health officials said they might reintroduce the AstraZeneca vaccine "if the situation changes".
Public health officials have warned that stopping vaccine delivery like AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson could do more harm than good. They find that out of seven million people in the US who were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, six women had developed the rare blood clots – fewer than one in a million. It is not yet known if the vaccine had anything to do with the clots, but even if it does, the risk is lower than being struck by lightning in any given year (one in 500,000).
Denmark, with a population of 5.8 million, managed to contain the pandemic better than its neighbor Sweden or many other European countries. As of Wednesday, Denmark had recorded 2,447 deaths related to Covid.
Almost a million people in the country have received at least one first dose of vaccine, 77 percent of them from Pfizer, according to the Danish Serum Institute. Around 15 percent received an initial dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine before authorities stopped using it last month, and the remaining 8 percent received the Moderna vaccine.
The country's health officials said people who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered a different vaccine for their second dose.
Jasmina Nielsen contributed to the reporting.