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European countries express interest in purchasing Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines

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Syringes and a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine sit on a general practitioners' table in Amsterdam.
Syringes and a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine sit on a general practitioners' table in Amsterdam.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Dejong
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A number of European countries have expressed interest in purchasing unwanted AstraZeneca vaccines from Denmark.

On Wednesday, Denmark became the first European country to abandon AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine due to a link with extremely rare cases of blood clots.

A day later, Norway's Public Health Institute also recommended against further use of the jab.

The decisions raise questions over potential surplus batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine (Vaxzevria) in both countries, including a reported 200,000 doses in Denmark.

On Thursday, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Europe, Hans Kluge, said Denmark was considering sharing unused doses with poorer countries.

"I understand that the ministry of foreign affairs of Denmark is ready to, or looking already into options, for sharing AstraZeneca vaccines with poorer countries," Kluge told a virtual press conference.

Kluge expressed his "appreciation" that Denmark was following the WHO's recommendations on the matter and sympathised with the decision to suspend AstraZeneca's vaccine.

However, the WHO has reiterated that the jab is "safe and effective" against COVID-19 and that the risk of thrombosis and blood clots is "much higher" if you contract the virus.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has maintained that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of side effects, explaining that COVID-19 is a "very serious disease".

Other EU member states have limited AstraZeneca doses to certain age groups.

Danish authorities have said "it is important to emphasise that it (AstraZeneca) is still an approved vaccine" and did not rule out using it in the future amid a rise in infection rates in the country.

On Wednesday, the Czech Health Minister Jan Hamacek tweeted that his country would be interested in Denmark's remaining doses.

"We are looking for vaccines all over the world, we are willing to buy AstraZeneca from Denmark," Hamacek said.

Meanwhile, Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said Vilnius would also be willing to buy vaccines, and neighbouring Latvia has also expressed interest.

"We will contact Denmark to find out how to apply for these vaccines," tweeted Latvia's Health Minister Daniels Pavluts.

However, it is not yet clear whether such deals are possible and permitted under EU procurement rules.

Several Danish political parties have also suggested that the surplus doses be distributed to Danes who are willing to receive AstraZeneca despite the health authorities' suspension.

The European Commission currently has a portfolio of 2.6 billion doses from several companies, including AstraZeneca, and is negotiating further contracts.

Additional sources • DPA