Italy: EU says no indication of link between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots

"Benefits outweigh risks" says the EMA which points out that there have been 30 cases of "thromboembolic events" among the five million Europeans who have received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Italian premier Mario Draghi spoke with European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen on 11 March, with both leaders agreeing there was no evidence of a link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine and blood clots, according to a statement released by the prime minister's office.

The phonecall between Draghi and Von der Leyen took place after the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) issued a nationwide ban on the ABV2856 batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to “serious adverse events” after inoculation.

In a statement AIFA said the ban was being taken as a precautionary measure, stressing that at present no link had been established between the vaccine and subsequent adverse reactions.

The ban comes amid a probe into the suspicious deaths of two men in Sicily who had recently been inoculated with the AstraZeneca batch in question.

"There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine," stated the European Medicines Agency (EMA), adding:

"The vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigation of cases of thromboembolic events is ongoing."

The EU agency also underlined that there had been 30 cases of "thromboembolic events" among the five million Europeans who have received the jab.

The EMA statement came after a number of European countries, including Italy, suspended part or all of their roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine over blood-clotting fears, prompting Von der Leyen to promise a "further, accelerated review" into the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Italian news agency ANSA reported last night that Italy's suspension of the AstraZeneca batch has led to a flood of calls to the offices of ASL health authorities and vaccination centres around the country.

Doctors at an vaccination hub in Catanzaro in the southern Calabria region said they were receiving calls from "fragile patients" who sought reassurance also about the Pfizer vaccine, as well as cancellations and requests for general information.

"We do not know how many people will show up tomorrow for the inoculations," doctors at Catanzaro told ANSA.

The ABV2856 batch banned by the Italian regulator is different to that suspended by Austria earlier this week, identified by the EMA as ABV5300, after a 49-year-old nurse died of severe blood coagulation days after receiving the shot.

Other European countries have partially suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspending it entirely.

The statement from the EMA can be read in full, in English, here.