Denmark Reports One Death After Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine, Will Maintain Suspension

Denmark said Saturday that one person died and another fell seriously ill after taking the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, prompting the nation to continue its suspension of the treatment.

The two patients were both hospital workers and had received the AstraZeneca vaccine less than 14 days before becoming ill with blood clots and cerebral hemorrhaging, Reuters reported.

Without giving details, such as when the workers fell ill, the Danish Medicines Agency confirmed that it had received two "serious reports" related to the vaccine.

Tanja Erichsen, acting director of the agency's Danish Pharmacovigilance Council, tweeted Saturday that the nation is prioritizing the new reports to determine whether the incidents could be linked to the vaccine.

"We prioritize reports of suspected serious side effects such as these and examine them thoroughly to assess whether there is a possible link to the vaccine," Erichsen wrote. "We are in the process of dealing with the two specific cases."

Denmark's announcement comes amid international worries that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was created by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, could be linked to fatal brain blood clotting in some patients.

Last week, Denmark joined over a dozen other European nations to suspend the use of the vaccine for safety purposes. The decision came after reports found 37 incidents of blood clotting in more than 17 million people given the vaccine in the European Union and Britain.

Denmark AstraZeneca
On Saturday, Denmark said one person had died and another fell seriously ill after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Here, a medical worker prepares a syringe of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Copenhagen on February 11. LISELOTTE SABROE/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

In response to the pause, numerous scientific bodies—including the World Health Organization, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the U.K.—stressed that there is no evidence of a link between the vaccine and blood-clotting incidents.

On Thursday, the EMA released an investigative report of the vaccine in which it determined its use to be "safe and effective."

"The committee has come to a clear scientific conclusion. This is a safe and effective vaccine," EMA executive director Emer Cooke said.

However, Cooke added that the agency could not definitively rule out the link between blood clotting and the vaccine. Instead, she insisted that the benefits of receiving the shot far outweigh the potential risks.

"What the committee has therefore recommended is awareness of these possible risks. Making sure that they're included in the product information," she said. "Drawing attention to these possible conditions and providing information to health care professionals and vaccinated people will help to spot and mitigate any possible side effects."

The EMA announcement prompted a number of European countries, including Germany and France, to reinstate the vaccine. But on Friday, Denmark, along with Sweden and Norway, said that they will need more time to decide whether to reverse the suspension.

AstraZeneca on Saturday declined to comment on the new cases in Denmark, but instead pointed Newsweek to a statement in which it said that "vaccine safety is paramount" to the company.

"We welcome the regulators' decisions which affirm the overwhelming benefit of our vaccine in stopping the pandemic. We trust that, after the regulators' careful decisions, vaccinations can once again resume across Europe," the statement added.

Newsweek contacted the Danish Ministry of Health for additional comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.