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Spain limits AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to over 60-year olds

Spain will only give AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine to people over 60 years old after European and British regulators found a potential link between the shot and rare brain blood clots.

"The vaccination strategy is changing and from tomorrow only over 60-year-olds will be vaccinated with AstraZeneca," Health Minister Carolina Darias told a news conference late on Wednesday following a meeting of regional health chiefs.

Darias said a decision would be taken on Thursday on whether to administer the second round of the vaccine to people who had already received their first dose.

The European Medicines Agency announced earlier it had reports of 169 cases of the rare clotting disorder out of 34 million doses administered within Europe, roughly one for every 100,000 people under 60 vaccinated. Most occurred in women under 60 and within two weeks of injection. [nL1N2M01J1

Maria Jesus Lamas, director of Spain's drug regulator, said that number was higher than expected, though very small: "Despite the rarity of these side effects, the modification to the technical guidance is important," Lamas said.

A summit of European Union health ministers failed to agree on common guidance for the vaccine and the EMA said countries should set their own regulations.

Spain's decision follows Italy recommending the shot only for those over 60 and Britain said people under 30 should get an alternative.

People lining up for a shot in Madrid earlier on Wednesday vented frustration at constantly changing guidance for the vaccine, which is subject to a patchwork of different rules governing its use.

"Today has been a very distressing day because of all the news coming from the European Medicines Agency," said Carmen Ruiz after coming out of Atletico Madrid's Wanda football stadium, now converted into a vaccine centre.

Though Spain is faring better than neighbouring France, where rampant infections have pushed hospital admittance rates to near five-month highs, the daily caseload has been increasing for three weeks.

The health ministry registered 8,788 new cases, bringing the total to 3.33 million. The death toll rose by 126 to 76,037.

Wary that increased social contact over Easter could trigger a full-blown fourth wave, authorities in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Aragon imposed fresh restrictions on movement.

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