The news that Lithuanian government suspends use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from March 16 as "a precaution" until the European Medicines Agency gives a final evaluation of its safety, made citizens nervous. It happened just some hours after Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė categorically told the public broadcaster her government would not suspend use of the vaccine, saying the harm due to the disruption to vaccination would be worse.
Thus, her statement was completely nullified by subsequent decision, which caused distrust of politicians' ability to lead the country out of the COVID-19 crisis.
The situation has become even worse when on March 18 the European Medicines Agency said the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, though several EU member states, including Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, have already suspended its use over cases of blood clots in a number of people who received it.
Then unsuspected statement of Jurgita Grebenkovienė, chancellor at the Health Ministry, followed. According to her, mass vaccination from Covid-19, which was scheduled to start in May, will be delayed. She even did not specify how long the delay would be.
"We are planning to review the vaccination schedule, since we have been informed by producers about changes in the number of vaccines [to be delivered] in the second quarter," she told LRT RADIO on Monday morning.
It is interesting that the same day, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda was vaccinated against Covid-19 at a Vilnius polyclinic to promote trust in the AstraZeneca jab.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, Speaker of the Seimas Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, and Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys also received the same vaccine.
Last week, Lithuania's leaders and lawmakers were included into the vaccination priority group to "bolster the country's trust" in the vaccination effort. It is now clear, that even if this vaccine is safe and effective, Lithuanians could not get jabs because of delay. The situation is strange: government try to promote the vaccine that is unavailable. The safety of AstraZeneca also arises doubt.
It is known that the European Commission has so far given 4 conditional marketing authorisations for AstraZeneca, Moderna, and the vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, following EMA positive assessment of their safety and efficacy. Thus, the following vaccines can be used in the EU to prevent COVID-19: Moderna (Spain,), Janssen (U.S.), AstraZeneca (Britain-Sweden), Comirnaty (Germany, U.S.).
In spite of this authorization, the head of the country's medicine authority Gytis Andrulionis told reporters on last Tuesday that "We are taking the decision now, because over the previous few hours we have received three reports about serious, unexpected, unwanted thromboembolic cases in patients who were given the AstraZeneca vaccine in Lithuania."
Several EU member states also have temporarily suspended vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine due to possible formation of blood clots.
At the same time Lithuanian Prime Minister completely ruled out the possibility of using other vaccines, including the Russian and Chinese ones. The more so, Šimonytė said that "Sputnik is definitely not that vaccine that we have included into our vaccination portfolio".
It should be said that during his visit to Moscow in February, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell suggested that the Russian-developed vaccine would be used in the EU.
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