Brussels (Brussels Morning) Germany has come under fire for pushing other EU member states to halt the use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by British-Swedish AstraZeneca, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Critics point out that the move jeopardises the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as well as undermines public confidence.
Germany’s Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, is in the spotlight following a round of telephone calls earlier this week which ended up with more than a dozen EU member states halting the use of the vaccine.
Spahn claims experts guided him
Spahn claims experts advised him to take the action after they saw a statistically significant link between the vaccine and the reported blood clots.
AstraZeneca stressed it had not found any evidence that its vaccine causes blood clots, while the World Health Organisation urged countries not to delay vaccination campaigns.
Germany’s push against the AstraZeneca vaccine has been criticised as being politically motivated both abroad and at home, where opposition politicians have been calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel to replace Spahn.
Officials in EU member states offer different explanations for the joint push against the vaccine, which further hampers the EU’s already sluggish vaccination campaign.
Ian Jones, University of Reading professor of virology, pointed to the blood clot narrative as having been “picked up by politicians who don’t know one side of a virus from another.”
“You just need one or two (countries) to state there’s a problem and suspend use, and then a whole lot of others will fall in place,” he noted, adding that he didn’t think “there have been any independent decisions”.
Christian Drosten, a German virologist focussed on emergent viruses and argued hat Germany needs the vaccine to protect citizens over the age of 60.
Panic outweighs facts
Spahn apparently took action after seven of 1.6 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot in Germany developed blood clots, with three resultant fatalities.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced it was investigating reports of some 30 cases of blood clots and low thrombocyte counts among five million EU citizens who received the AstraZeneca shot.
The scientific findings notwithstanding, more than 50% of Germans believe the suspension was justified, a Forsa poll indicated on Wednesday.