BERLIN (AP) – Germany resumed vaccinations with the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca on Friday, following a recommendation by European regulators that the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks.
The European Medicines Agency said Thursday that the vaccine is safe but it can’t rule out a link to a small number of rare blood clots reported on the continent, and patients should be told to look out for any warning signs.
The move paved the way for more than a dozen European countries, which had suspended use of the shot over the past week, to begin using it again.
Authorities in Berlin said two large vaccination centers that offer the AstraZeneca shot to people in the German capital will reopen Friday, and people whose appointments were canceled this week will be able to get the vaccine over the weekend without making a new one.
“We’ve got a lot of room as far as vaccinations with AstraZeneca are concerned,” Berlin’s top health official, Dilek Kalayci, told public broadcaster rbb.
The suspension of the AstraZeneca shot further slowed Germany’s already sluggish vaccine campaign this week. So far, about 10 million doses have been administered in the country, with 8.4% of the population receiving at least one shot and 3.7% getting both doses.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 17,482 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 overnight, and 226 deaths.
Lars Schaade, the deputy head of the center, the Robert Koch Institute, said the rate of infections is “now clearly exponential.”
Officials have warned that the country could face a return to stricter lockdown measures by Easter.
“The rising case numbers could mean that we won’t be able to undertake further opening steps in the coming weeks,” said Health Minister Jens Spahn. “On the contrary, we may have to take steps backward.”
His comments were a clear message to some state governors who have resisted pulling the “emergency brake” agreed two weeks ago with Chancellor Angela Merkel to reimpose fresh restrictions in regions where the number of new weekly cases rises above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. The nationwide average stood at 95.6 on Friday.
Meanwhile, researchers in Germany say they may have found an effective way to treat the rare cerebral vein blood clots seen in a small number of cases after vaccination. Andreas Greinacher, the head of the department for transfusion medicine at the University of Greifswald, said his team’s research is being submitted to the journal The Lancet for peer review.
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