17 countries haven’t ‘banned’ the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

17 March 2021
What was claimed

Seventeen countries have banned the AstraZeneca vaccine outside of the UK.

Our verdict

This is not the case. At the time of writing, 17 countries in Europe have temporarily stopped giving it out whilst waiting for a review from the European Medicines Agency. They have not “banned” it.

The data in this piece is correct as of the time of writing, on 17 March 2021.

A post on Facebook has claimed that 17 countries have “banned” the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and the UK hasn’t. The post previously claimed that 12 countries had banned it, but has since been edited.

This is not correct. No country has outright banned the vaccine.

At the time of writing, 17 countries in Europe (Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia) have temporarily paused administering the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. An 18th country, Romania, temporarily stopped giving it out but has now restarted.

Outside of Europe, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have delayed rolling it out. Thailand had temporarily suspended it, but has now restarted vaccinations. 

Most of these suspensions are pending results of an investigation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) into blood clots in people after they received the vaccine, due this week. On 16 March, the EMA reportedly said it remained “firmly convinced” that the benefits of the jab outweighed the risks. On 17 March, the World Health Organisation said that it “considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.”

Most of these suspensions were announced since the Facebook post was first written on 13 March. It’s possible the creator of the post was also referring to the fact that a number of EU countries have suspended the use of a certain batch of the vaccine, labelled batch ABV5300. 

In Austria, following vaccinations from the ABV5300 batch, two people suffered from blood clot related issues: one died as a result of “severe coagulation disorders” and the other is recovering from a pulmonary embolism. Although there is no evidence of a causal relationship between these issues and the vaccine, the country’s Federal Office for Safety in Health Care said that to be on the safe side, the remaining stocks of the affected vaccine batch would no longer be distributed or vaccinated.

In total, 17 countries received the batch and, of these, four countries in the EU (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Luxembourg) specifically suspended use of this batch. The EMA says this is a “precautionary measure, while a full investigation is ongoing”. As we’ve mentioned, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg have since temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in general.

Italy banned a different batch, AB2856, and later suspended use of the vaccine on 15 March.

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Does the AstraZeneca vaccine cause blood clots?

When we first wrote this article, there was no evidence showing that it did. As of 7 April 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said there is a possible link between the vaccine and a specific type of blood clot that occurs alongside low platelets. We’ve written more about this here.

Update 9 April 2021

We have updated this article to reflect a subsequent statement from the MHRA that said there is a possible link between certain blood clots and the vaccine.

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