The government of Italy has suspended AstraZeneca/Oxford University’s experimental AZD1222 COVID-19 vaccine for people under 60 years of age in that country. The decision, announced on June 11, 2021, follows the recent death of 18-year-old Camilla Canepa, who died of a cerebral due to a blood clot 16 days after receiving the first dose of the experimental vaccine on May 25.1 2 3 4
In a press conference, Franco Locatelli, coordinator of the Technical Scientific Committee (CTS) which advises the government of Italy on COVID-19, said:
The epidemiological scenario has changed, and so has the relationship between the benefits of vaccination and the potential risk of unusual blood clots.3
Locatelli said the CTS is also recommending that people under 60 years old who received the first dose of AZD1222 be given a different COVID-19 vaccine for the second dose. He attributed this recommendation to “an excess of caution.”2
Concern About Young People Getting AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine
The Italian government has reportedly told those under 60 who were initially vaccinated with AZD1222 that “the cycle should be completed with a second dose of mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine” such as Pfizer/BioNTech’s BNT162b2 or Moderna/NIAID’s mRNA-1273, given eight to 12 weeks later.3
Although no causal link has been established between Canepa’s death and AZD1222, the incident has raised concerns in Italy about using the vaccine on younger people. The young woman, who was from the town of Sestri Levante in northwest Italy, apparently had autoimmune thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) and was on double hormone therapy. It is unclear if she had disclosed this condition prior to vaccination.2 3 4
According to an article by ANSA:
The case of Camilla Canepa has once again raised doubts in the scientific and medical community as to whether this type of vaccine should be given to young people and in particular young women.5
Second Suspension of AZD1222 Vaccine in Italy
The suspension of AZD1222 in Italy is the second suspension of the vaccine in the country during the past four months due to safety concerns. The first suspension occurred in mid-March following the death of a 57-year-old music teacher, Sandro Tognatti, who died within hours of getting the vaccine in his hometown of Biella.6
Authorities in Italy’s northern Piedmont region subsequently launched a criminal investigation. They wanted to be “completely sure” that Tognatti’s death “cannot be attributed to the above-mentioned inoculation.”6
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1 Bubola E, Gutierrez J. Italy halts the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in those under 60, and other news from around the world. The New York Times June 11, 2021.
2 IANS. Italy suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60 year old. Business Standard June 12, 2021.
3 RTTNews. Italy Suspends AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine For People Under 60 Yrs, After Teenager Dies. Nasdaq June 12, 2021.
4 Redazione ANSA. 18-year-old dies after having AstraZeneca vaccine. ANSA June 11, 2021.
5 ANSA. Concerns After Italian 18-Year-Old Dies Following AstraZeneca Vaccination. CDE News June 11, 2021.
6 Brown L. Italy opens manslaughter case after teacher dies hours after getting AstraZeneca vaccine. New York Post Mar. 16, 2021.