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AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots resume in Germany after EU declares vaccine safe

Jens Spahn removes a mask
Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, at a news conference in Berlin on Friday.
(Michael Kappeler / DPA)

Germany resumed administering the COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca on Friday, following a finding by European regulators that the shot is not associated with an increased risk of blood clots and that its benefits far outweigh the risks.

The European Medicines Agency said Thursday that the vaccine is “safe and effective.” It did not definitively rule out a link to a small number of rare blood clots reported on the continent, and patients should be told to look out for any warning signs. But the agency said there was no evidence of an increased overall risk of developing clots.

The move paved the way for more than a dozen European countries, which had suspended use of the shot over the past week, to begin using it again. In Asia, Indonesia, which had also paused AstraZeneca vaccinations, cleared the shot for use again Friday as well.

Authorities in Berlin said two large vaccination centers that offer the AstraZeneca shot in the German capital will reopen Friday, and people whose appointments were canceled this week will be able to get the vaccine over the weekend.

“We’ve got a lot of room as far as vaccinations with AstraZeneca are concerned,” Berlin’s top health official, Dilek Kalayci, told public broadcaster RBB.

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The suspension of the AstraZeneca shot further slowed Germany’s already-sluggish vaccination campaign. So far, about 10 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country, with 8.4% of the population receiving at least one shot and 3.7% getting both doses.

The U.K. has approved a second COVID-19 vaccine. AstraZeneca says it aims to supply millions of doses in the first quarter.

Germany’s disease-control agency reported 17,482 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 overnight, and 226 deaths.

Lars Schaade, the deputy head of the agency, said the rate of infections is “now clearly exponential.”

Officials have warned that the country could face a return to stricter lockdown measures by Easter.

“The rising case numbers could mean that we won’t be able to undertake further opening steps in the coming weeks,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn. “On the contrary, we may have to take steps backward.”

Italy, where the coronavirus first appeared outside China and ravaged the country’s north, is experiencing yet another wave of serious COVID-19 cases.

His comments were a clear message to some state governors who have resisted pulling the “emergency brake” agreed on two weeks ago with Chancellor Angela Merkel to reimpose fresh restrictions in regions where the number of new weekly cases rises above 100 per 100,000 residents. The nationwide average stood at 95.6 on Friday.

Meanwhile, researchers in Germany say they may have found an effective way to treat the rare cerebral vein blood clots seen in a small number of cases after vaccination. Andreas Greinacher, the head of the department for transfusion medicine at the University of Greifswald, said his team’s research is being submitted to the British medical journal Lancet for peer review.


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