‘It bears questioning:’ Leader of UW Health’s AstraZeneca vaccine trial says the US hasn’t seen any blood clots like the ones reported in Europe

MADISON, Wis. — More and more countries are halting use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. The Associated Press reports Germany, France, Italy and Spain all suspended use of the vaccine Monday.

It comes after multiple reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients.

“There’s been 17 million people that have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccines to date, the blood clots have been seen in about 35 people, about 15 with deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot typically in the legs. And the others were pulmonary embolisms, which are blood clots that can occur in the lungs,” said UW Health Dr. William Hartman.

Hartman was the principal investigator for the AstraZeneca clinical trial at UW Health. He said the Wisconsin participants did not get any unusual side effects such as blood clots, and neither did any of the 31,000 other American participants.

He said there is no proof that the vaccines are causing the blood clots in those cases in Europe. European leaders are halting the use of the vaccine to investigate whether they’re related.

“At this point, they don’t see the (blood clot) incidents being any higher than what would be expected in the general population. In fact it’s significantly lower,” said Hartman.

He said blood clots usually occur in about 1 in 1,000 adults.

He said seeing these countries pause use of the vaccine should be reassuring to the public.

“It bears questioning and I think that the countries are doing the appropriate thing by at least taking a deep breath and trying to see if there’s an association, trying to keep the citizens of their country as safe as possible. Although the European Medical Association feels that the AstraZeneca vaccine benefits still outweigh any risks. And they are recommending that people continue to receive this vaccine,” said Hartman.

He doesn’t think this pause in use of the vaccine in Europe will affect the authorization of AstraZeneca in the United States.

The FDA could allow emergency use of the vaccine soon.