The Netherlands is halting AstraZeneca coronavirus jabs for people aged under 60 after fresh reports of rare blood clots, Dutch health authorities have said.
The move comes after five new cases in the Netherlands affecting women between 25 and 65 years of age, the health ministry said in a statement.
"We must err on the side of caution, which is why it is wise to press the pause button now as a precaution," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a statement.
The suspension of AstraZeneca jabs lasts until 7 April when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to come out with fresh advice on the issue, he said.
Germany had taken a similar decision earlier this week, the health ministry noted.
Around 10,000 vaccinations that were scheduled next week for Dutch health workers under the age of 60 have now been postponed, the GGD public health service said.
"The immediate cause for the decision are reports of cases of extensive thrombosis in combination with low platelet counts after vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine," it said.
The EMA said on Wednesday it believes the AstraZeneca jab is safe and that experts have found no specific risk factors such as age, gender or medical history.
However it said it would release an "updated recommendation" after its safety committee meets next week, the Amsterdam-based regulator said.
UK reports 30 rare blood clots following AZ vaccine
British regulators said they have identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine but stressed the benefits of the jab in preventing coronavirus outweigh any risks.
The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the risk associated with this type of blood clot is "very small" and that people should continue to take up the vaccine when offered it.
The agency said it had identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events following use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, out of 18.1 million doses administered up to and including 24 March.
Of these, it said it had received 22 reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and eight reports of other thrombosis events with low platelets.
Responding to the data, a member of the British Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that taking up the vaccine was "by far the safest choice" at minimising risk of serious illness or death.
Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol, said: "The report states that these cases are being very carefully investigated to better understand whether or not they may have any causal relationship with vaccination.
"Nevertheless, the extreme rarity of these events in the context of the many millions of vaccine doses that have been administered means that the risk-benefit decision facing people who are invited to receive Covid-19 vaccines is very straight forward: receiving the vaccine is by far the safest choice in terms of minimising individual risk of serious illness or death."
Regulators said they had received no reports of such clotting events after the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
The head of the EMA has said that there is "no evidence" to support restricting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in any population.
The agency said a causal link between unusual blood clots in people who have had the vaccine is "not proven, but is possible", adding that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweighed the risks of side effects.
This view is echoed by the World Health Organization, which has urged countries to continue using the jab.
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Meanwhile Australia is investigating whether a blood clotting disorder case recorded today is related to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said.
Australian media reported that a 44-year-old man was admitted to a Melbourne hospital with possible clotting days after receiving the vaccine.
"Investigators have not at this time confirmed a causal link with the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine, but investigations are ongoing," Dr Kidd told a televised briefing.
Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration, the medicine and therapeutic regulatory agency, has said previously that AstraZeneca vaccine was not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots.
Professor Joe Harbison, Clinical Lead on the Irish National Audit of Stroke, told RTÉ's Morning Ireland last month that the risks of getting a blood clot from Covid-19 were far higher compared to any potential risk from having a vaccine.
"Around 1% to 2% of people hospitalised with coronavirus will suffer a stroke as a result of the disease." He said there were about 30 strokes related to Covid during the first wave of the pandemic in Ireland.