BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Just four days after the government kicked off its nationwide inoculation campaign, the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced Tuesday evening that it would “temporarily pause” the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine pending a technical review.

Citing recent reports of unusual blood clotting in a handful of patients in the UK, the ministry said it would conduct a review of scientific data before resuming the use of the Oxford vaccine. ⠀

“This is a precautionary measure until the Technical Committee has had a chance to complete this review and are able to make evidence-based recommendations on the use of the AstraZeneca.

“In the meantime, the vaccination programme will continue using the Sinopharm vaccine.”

A number of countries have reported rare blood clots affecting primarily younger people with low levels of platelets. The UK has reported clots in 30 people from the 18 million vaccinated by March 24.

Of the 30 cases, seven people have died, although it is not clear if this is a coincidence or a genuine side effect of the vaccine.

“At present, a number of international regulatory authorities including WHO and the European Medicines Agency are of the view that the vaccine is safe and the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks,” the ministry said.

‘No blood clots observed in Brunei’

MoH stressed that there has been no evidence of unusual blood clots in the 2,323 people in Brunei who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine since April 3.

The health ministry added that people who have received the Oxford vaccine should not be alarmed, stating that it will continue to monitor adverse symptoms following immunisation.

MoH said if after a few days individuals still experience symptoms — such as shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, severe or persistent headaches, blurred vision or skin bruising beyond the site of injection — they should seek prompt medical attention.

“The Ministry of Health fully expects that this pause will be temporary pending completion of the review by the Technical Committee who will be guided by findings from international regulatory agencies.”

On Tuesday, British media reported that UK’s medicines regulatory body was considering restricting the use of AstraZeneca in under 30s, but that no decision had been made yet.

The European Medicines Agency is also set to rule on Wednesday whether countries should carry on giving out the jab as part of the EU’s vaccine programme.

In the last month, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands have paused the vaccine’s rollout while the EMA investigates.

For any additional information on COVID-19, members of the public can visit the Ministry of Health’s website or contact the Health Advice Line at 148 during office hours.