Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Friday suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, following similar steps in Denmark, Iceland and Norway over safety concerns.
“I order a halt in vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine until the European Medicines Agency dismisses all doubts about its safety,” a government press service statement quoted Borisov as saying.
The EMA announced on Thursday that countries can keep using AstraZeneca’s vaccine while it probes cases of blood clots that prompted the suspension of particular batches of the vaccine or all jabs with it in several countries.
But Borisov insisted Friday that vaccinations should stop until the country received “a written statement with an accurate and clearly confirmed diagnosis — can we or cannot we administer it.”
“Until then, you stop it,” he said.
Bulgaria falls last among EU countries in terms of its vaccination rate with only 270,000 people or 3.9 percent of the population receiving at least one dose so far.
The country has ordered far more AstraZeneca vaccines than Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna doses. It was using primarily the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent weeks after deciding to scrap prioritisation lists and offer jabs to anyone willing to take them.
So even if it remained unclear on Friday how long the suspension could last, it was expected to severely disrupt vaccination plans.
Health officials already confirmed Thursday that the country had already used up almost completely 31,200 shots from a batch of the vaccine that was suspended in Austria earier this week after the death of a 49-year-old nurse from “severe blood coagulation problems,” days after receiving the shot.
But Health Minister Kostadin Angelov had tried to dismiss any fears over the use of the vaccine saying that there was “no clear and precise conclusion that this batch is the cause of the adverse drug reaction associated with the lethal outcome.”
Nor have severe side effects been reported so far, health officials said.