A statement released by Belgium’s Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke and his regional counterparts on Wednesday said that the federal government has decided to temporarily limit the vaccine to those aged 41 and older.
The decision, taken following the death of a woman who developed severe side effects after receiving the Johnson & Johnson jab, will be reviewed after “a more detailed benefit-risk analysis” is conducted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The government confirmed that the woman, who was younger than 40, had died in hospital on May 21 after she experienced severe thrombosis and platelet deficiency following her vaccination, which had been given to her via her employer rather than through the official government inoculation campaign.
Johnson & Johnson last month paused its vaccine rollout in Europe after several reported cases of rare blood clotting among recipients in the US. After studying the available data, the EMA said there was a possible link between the jab and the US clotting cases, but that its overall benefits outweighed any risks.
The pharma giant resumed its European deliveries after adding a warning label to its doses, but has stated that there is no clear causal relationship between the vaccine and blood clots.
The Belgian health officials noted in their statement that only around 40,000 doses of J&J’s Janssen vaccine had been delivered to the state so far, and the vast majority (80%) have been administered to people aged 45 or older.
The EMA announced later on Wednesday that it is reviewing the death of the woman in Belgium, as well as reports of blood clots in other countries. Johnson and Johnson has not yet publicly responded to Belgium’s suspension for under 41s.
Belgium has reported 1,049,822 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, with 24,853 fatalities since the start of the pandemic. Through its inoculation drive, the government has given more than 4.4 million people at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with more than 40,000 of those shots using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.