ROME: Germany, France and Italy on Monday joined a growing list of nations that have halted the AstraZeneca jab over blood clot fears, a blow to a global vaccine drive aimed at ending the pandemic.

The suspensions came as much of Italy went into lockdown again to stave off a dreaded third wave of the virus in one of the world’s hardest hit countries. Ireland and the Netherlands both halted the use of the jab over the weekend, and on Monday a Dutch drugs watchdog said there were potentially 10 cases of blood clots linked to the vaccine.

Germany, France and Italy followed suit Monday, despite still worrying levels of infections in all three countries. French President Emmanuel Macron said he was awaiting guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) about the use of the vaccine.

“The decision has been made... to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution, hoping that we can resume it quickly if the judgement of the EMA allows it,” he said.

AstraZeneca and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both said the vaccine is safe for use and there is no reason to stop rolling it out. The suspensions threaten to slow the progress of a global vaccine drive that experts say is the only way to overcome the pandemic that has already killed more than 2.6 million people around the world.

Indonesia on Monday also said it would delay the rollout of the jab, which is cheaper than its competitors and was billed as the vaccination of choice for many poorer nations. But one of the vaccine’s co-developers on Monday sought to quell anxieties over the inoculation, saying on balance there were greater risks in not getting vaccinated.

The director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Andrew Pollard, said there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe been given so far”.

More than 350 million vaccines have now been administered globally, with the AstraZeneca jab among just a handful approved for use around the world. The European Union has approved four jabs so far, and is monitoring others — including Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

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