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Photo: Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images

France, Germany, Italy and Spain on Monday became the latest countries to suspend use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine as EU regulators investigate reports of blood clots in recipients, joining Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland and several others.

The latest: The European Medicines Agency said in a statement it would carry out a" rigorous analysis of all the data related" to blood clots this week, but added: "While its investigation is ongoing, EMA currently remains of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects."

The state of play: AstraZeneca has insisted that its vaccine is safe, and the World Health Organization has cautioned countries against suspending vaccinations. The countries said they were taking the steps as a precautionary measure.

What they're saying: AstraZeneca said in statement Sunday that there have been 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 cases of pulmonary embolism among the 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and United Kingdom thus far.

  • "This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines," the pharmaceutical company said.
  • "The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety," AstraZeneca's chief medical officer Ann Taylor said.

A World Health Organization spokesperson said Monday: "As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus."

The big picture: AstraZeneca is one of four coronavirus vaccines that have received emergency authorization in the EU, in addition to Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. AstraZeneca has not yet applied for emergency authorization in the U.S., as it awaits data from a large clinical trial.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.

3 hours ago - World

Biden huddles with European allies on Ukraine ahead of Putin call

Putin in the Kremlin. Photo: Grigory Sysoyev/Sputnik via Getty

President Biden will seek to convince Russia's Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that the price of invading Ukraine would be steeper than anything he's faced in the past.

Driving the news: Biden held a call on Ukraine this evening with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., while Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer America's "unwavering support."