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Bulgaria Suspends AstraZeneca Vaccine Rollout Amid Safety Concerns

A health worker in Bulgaria prepares an inoculation using the AstraZeneca vaccine in February. (file photo)
A health worker in Bulgaria prepares an inoculation using the AstraZeneca vaccine in February. (file photo)

Bulgaria has temporarily halted inoculations with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine amid growing concerns over its safety.

The Bulgarian government said in a statement on March 12 that the rollout of the vaccine is suspended until the European Medicines Agency sends a written statement dispelling all doubts about its safety.

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"Until an accurate and clearly confirmed diagnosis comes in writing from the European Medicines Agency that the AstraZeneca vaccine may or may not be given, [health officials] will stop it," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov was quoted as saying by the government's information service.

The World Health Organization said on March 12 that it is assessing reports of blood coagulation problems faced by some people in the European Union who received doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a particular batch.

AstraZeneca said on March 11 that it had found no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis -- marked by the formation of blood clots -- in safety data of more than 10 million records, even when considering subgroups based on age, gender, production batch, or country of use.

Nonetheless, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Italy, and Romania have postponed or limited the rollout of their quota of AstraZeneca vaccines after isolated reports of recipients developing blood clots.

Thailand followed suit on March 12, an abrupt decision that led to the embarrassing spectacle of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha abruptly canceling his own televised inoculation.

Australia, Mexico, and the Philippines said they would continue their rollouts as they had found no reason to alter course. Canada said there was no evidence the vaccine causes adverse reactions.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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