Danish officials have decided to prolong their suspension of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by three weeks while they continue evaluating a potential link with blood clots even though European Union regulators have cleared the vaccine for use.
Denmark's decision "was made on the basis of presumed side effects," Tanja Erichsen, acting director of pharmacovigilance at the Danish Medicines Agency, said during a news conference.
"It can't be ruled out that there is a connection between the vaccine and the very rare blood clot cases," she said.
Denmark paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure on March 11 after reports that a 60-year-old woman died with blood clots in several parts of her body a week after she received the vaccine, according to health officials.
The death of a second person in Denmark who died after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine was reported.
Danish health authorities said they have no evidence the vaccine was responsible for either death.
"I would like to emphasise that I am not talking about ordinary blood clots," Erichsen said.
"It is not about blood clots in the arms, legs and lungs."
The pause will last at least until April 18.
Norway and Sweden also suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Most European countries that had put the vaccine on hold resumed administering it after the European Medicines Agency said last week that it was safe.
Sweden's Public Health Agency said on Thursday it would resume giving AstraZeneca jabs to people over age 65 but it was recommending continuing to keep them on hold for other age groups while awaiting additional data.
Sweden suspended administering the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 16.
"The vaccine is very useful for the elderly as many become seriously ill with COVID-19 every day," the Swedish agency's director, Johan Carlson, said in a statement.
"At the same time, we haven't seen a risk of these rare and serious side effects in the elderly. That is the reason why we are canceling the break for people over the age of 65."
Health officials in neighbouring Finland said late on Wednesday that the country would resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday after a pause of over a week but only would administer it to people over 65.
Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in Finland last Friday after brain blood clots were diagnosed in two individuals who had received the jab.