Estonia halts use of Janssen vaccine awaiting EMA decision

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Janssen coronavirus vaccine doses. Source: New York National Guard/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Estonia will suspend the use of the Janssen coronavirus vaccine until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has issued its report next week, the immunoprophylaxis expert committee agreed on Wednesday.

The first 2,400 doses of the one-shot U.S. manufactured vaccine reached Estonia on Tuesday but on the same day the USA's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a potential link between blood clots and the vaccine, pausing further vaccinations.

In total six reports of an extremely rare blood clotting disorder in combination with low platelets are being investigated. So far, 6.8 million doses of the Janssen vaccine have already been administered.

The EMA will issue a report next week and Estonia's immunoprophylaxis expert committee has said vaccinations should be put on hold until then. Janssen has also suggested European Union countries wait until the report is published.

Head of the national expert committee on immunoprophylaxis Maris Jesse said the decision had been unanimous.

She added that waiting for a Europe-wide agreement also "contributes to a more coherent approach to vaccine use in the European Union, so the messaging is more coherent and clearer for people". 

The Janssen vaccines are earmarked for people with mobility issues or those who are bedridden as only one shot needs to be administered for full immunity to be reached. The Estonian Health Insurance Fund has already mapped those in need in Tallinn and Tartu and they will receive the first doses.

Estonia has pre-ordered 300,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine which will fully vaccinate 300,000 people.

The EU was set to start using the vaccine starting this week and is planning to receive 55 million doses by the end of June, news website Politico Europe reported.

"While its review is ongoing, EMA remains of the view that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects," the agency wrote in a statement.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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