Thailand has delayed the rollout of the AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine over reports of blood clots, despite there being no evidence of a link to the jab.
The country’s prime minister was due to kick off the country’s vaccination drive by getting the vaccine on Friday. This has now been cancelled.
The delay comes after a number of countries, including Denmark and Norway, suspended the use of the jab.
Around 5 million Europeans have already received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Thailand’s public health ministry said it made the decision because the country had not been “hard hit” by the virus and it had other vaccines it could rely on in the meantime.
There have been about 30 cases in Europe of “thromboembolic events” – or developing blood clots – after the vaccine was administered.
On Friday, Bulgaria became the latest country to suspend use of the vaccine, and it asked for a written statement from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) accounting for the jab’s safety.
The EMA said on Thursday that there was no indication the jab was causing the blood clots, adding that its “benefits continue to outweigh its risks”.
AstraZeneca said the drug’s safety had been studied extensively in clinical trials.
Other countries, including Portugal, Australia, Mexico and the Philippines, have said they are continuing their roll-out.
What has Thailand said?
“Though the quality of AstraZeneca is good, some countries have asked for a delay,” Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, an adviser for the country’s Covid-19 vaccine committee, told reporters at a news conference.
“We will delay [as well].”
However, Thai public health ministry officials clarified that the batch of AstraZeneca vaccines is different from those distributed in Europe, adding that blood clot problems had not been commonly detected amongst Asians.
The first batch of 117,300 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in Thailand on 24 Feb, together with 200,000 doses of China’s Coronavac vaccine.
More than 30,000 people in Thailand have already received Coronavac since the country kicked off its vaccination programme on 28 February. Thailand says it will continue with its Coronavac rollout.
How does the vaccine work?
The AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed with the University of Oxford, is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it can’t cause illness.
Once injected, it teaches the body’s immune system how to fight the real virus, should it need to.