Controversy over the AstraZeneca vaccine is putting Europe further behind schedule on vaccinations. The goal is to inoculate 70% of the population by September, and no EU nation is on track to meet that deadline, reports the New York Times. Germany, Spain, France, and Italy are among the nations that have stopped using the vaccine over concerns about a possible link to blood clots, and all are awaiting a new review from the European Union's regulator, the European Medicines Agency, which is due Thursday, per the BBC. The clots are common enough in general to be a coincidence, the agency's executive director said in again endorsing the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday. "The benefits continue to outweigh the risks, but this is a serious concern and it does need serious and detailed scientific evaluation," Emer Cooke said.
In the meantime, the manufacturer has defended its product, as has the World Health Organization, which says there is no evidence linking the blood clots to the vaccine. Nations including Poland, Ukraine, and Belgium continue to distribute it. The vaccine was first tested on thousands of people, and millions have received it since, with few problems reported. The health experts for Germany's political parties were critical of the government's decision to press pause. The Free Democrats lamented the delay, and the Greens said the vaccinations could have carried on while the risk was assessed. "I would even now get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca," said the Social Democrats' health spokesman. (In the US, where the AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved, two states now have COVID vaccinations open to everyone.)