Slovenia has suspended vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus jab while it probes the death of a 20-year-old woman, as thousands gathered to protest against vaccination in the small European Union nation.
The suspension will be in place until experts examine whether there is a link between the woman’s death from a stroke and the vaccine she received two weeks earlier, Health Minister Janez Poklukar said on Wednesday.
The one-dose jabs have grown in popularity in recent weeks in Slovenia after authorities widely introduced COVID-19 passes, which will also be needed for going to work in all state-run firms. The government has approved the purchase of an additional 100,000 J&J doses from Hungary in response to the growing demand.
The woman’s death this week was the second serious case of adverse effects of the Johnson & Johnson jabs, which have been administered to about 120,000 people in Slovenia, the official STA news agency reported.
However, “benefits continue to outweigh the risks”, Poklukar said.
Still, the announcement is likely to fuel Wednesday’s protests planned in the capital, Ljubljana, against vaccination and coronavirus measures.
Previous similar protests have drawn thousands, and demonstrators recently clashed with police. Ahead of Wednesday’s rally, police put up metal fences and urged participants to remain calm.
Like much of Central and Eastern Europe, Slovenia in recent weeks has seen a rise in infections. The country of some 2 million people has fully vaccinated nearly 48% of the population, which is lower than in many other EU states.
Slovenia has recommended Johnson & Johnson vaccines to all people older than 18 years old, unlike some countries that have limited their use to older people.