: Finland suspends use of AstraZeneca shots despite backing by EU regulator this week

United States

Finland has suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine shot despite backing by the European Medicines Agency on Thursday.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is investigating two possible cases of blood clots it said on Friday. It’s investigation will take a week.

On Thursday the European Medicines Agency said in an eagerly-expected report that the benefits of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine “continue to outweigh the risk of side effects” and that the shot “is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots.”

  • Rollout of the vaccine will now resume in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and most of the other European Union countries that had suspended use of the shot pending the EMA’s review. But Sweden and Denmark, as well as Norway (outside the EU) said they would need more time to review the report.
  • The EMA added that “the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia,” but noted that “a causal link with the vaccine is not proven, but is possible and deserves further analysis.”
  • The French government announced on Thursday that the whole greater Paris region will be placed under lockdown, forcing President Emmanuel Macron to backtrack on his insistence that such strict measures could be avoided.
  • The pandemic keeps spreading in France, and the Paris area is the third major French region to be ordered back into lockdown after the north’s Pas de Calais and the whole Riviera region in the south.

Read: EU regulator declares AstraZeneca vaccine ‘safe’ after blood clot investigation

The outlook: Even just a few days of suspension of the AstraZeneca AZN, -0.07% vaccine have brought more delays to Europe’s troubled vaccination campaigns, which can now resume. Whereas the U.K. has managed to vaccinate 40% of its population, that proportion is only 12% in the EU.

Meanwhile, Macron may have to pay a heavy political price for backtracking on his insistence that France could avoid the strict lockdowns it went through last year. With about a third of France’s territory — and its most populated areas — now under the strictest regime, he will disappoint both the impatient who railed against restrictions and the cautious who warned that his policies were dangerous.

Read: Why Tensions on Vaccine Supplies Are Unlikely to Subside