‘Cautious’ Indonesia suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns

The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Flickr
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Flickr

Update March 19: The Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (BPOM) has cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine after Europe found no direct link between it and blood clotting in recipients.

Original story follows

Indonesia has joined over a dozen countries in suspending use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine due to the widely-reported blood clot scare.

Indonesia has received 1.1 million doses of the vaccine developed by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical firm as part of the WHO-backed COVAX initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries. The country is expected to receive up to 23.1 million doses of the vaccine in total.

Thirty-seven people in Europe reportedly suffered blood clotting after receiving AstraZeneca jabs, even though no conclusive link between the incident and the vaccine has been established. The firm has argued that the low number of incidences is lower than what one would expect to occur naturally in a general population, considering that the vaccine has been administered to millions in Europe.

Even so, a dozen European nations, as well as Thailand and now Indonesia, have opted to suspend use of the vaccine over the scare, pending further review from health regulators.

“The European Medical Authority (EMA) is reviewing whether [the blood clots] have any correlation with the vaccine or not,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said when announcing the vaccine’s suspension yesterday.

“To be on the conservative side, the Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (BPOM) is suspending the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine until we receive confirmation [that it’s safe] from the WHO.”

However, Indonesia’s window to re-approve the vaccine is fast shrinking.

“Hopefully [the approval] will be issued soon. Because the AstraZeneca vaccines we have are expiring in May,” Budi said.

Indonesia has thus far depended solely on CoronaVac, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac, in its mass vaccination program that began in mid-January. As of March 15, the country has administered the first of two required doses of the vaccine to 4,166,862 people and the second dose to 1,572,786 people. Indonesia has significantly picked up its daily vaccination rate over the past couple of weeks, having administered jabs to 259,302 people yesterday as it seeks to vaccinate up to 1 million people within the next couple of months.


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