Sweden has extended its pause of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 30 and younger due to heart-related side-effects, the public health agency announced on Oct. 21.
The European Medicines Agency approved the use of Moderna’s Spikevax for children aged over 12 in July, marking the first time the shot had been authorized for use in people under 18.
But on Oct. 6, the Public Health Agency of Sweden said it was pausing the use of Spikevax among people born in 1991 or later after data showed an increased risk of inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis). The initial pause had a deadline of Dec. 1.
But the agency announced Thursday that it was extending that pause beyond the original deadline for people aged 30 and younger and anyone who has received a first dose of Spikevax is recommended to receive Pfizer’s Comirnaty as a second dose instead.
The European Medicines Agency approved the use of Comirnaty in May.
“Now everyone under 30 waiting for their second dose can receive it,” said Anders Tegnell, state epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Sweden.
The health agency also said it plans to put an end to widespread testing and will remove the recommendation for testing for those who are fully vaccinated, regardless of whether or not they are displaying symptoms. The new testing guidelines come into effect on Nov. 1.
“We must test those who are most at risk of being infected with COVID-19. The vaccine protects well, above all against severe disease but also against infection and the spread of infection,” Health Agency official Britta Bjorkholm told a news conference.
The health agency noted that individuals who are patients or working in health care should still get tested, as well as those who have been in close contact with someone who is confirmed to have contracted the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Out of 139,651 tests performed last week, 3 percent came back positive.
Currently, around 85 percent of all Swedes aged 16 and older have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 80 percent have had two shots or more.
Meanwhile, a World Health Organization (WHO) advisory group is studying decisions in both Sweden and Denmark to halt vaccinating young people with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine amid health concerns.
Denmark announced earlier this month that it would stop offering the Moderna vaccine to anyone under 18 as a “precautionary principle” due to data indicating heart-related side effects.
“In the preliminary data … there is a suspicion of an increased risk of heart inflammation, when vaccinated with Moderna,” the Danish Health Authority said.
The result of those studies are expected soon, WHO’s Assistant Director-General Mariangela Simao said on Thursday.
Reuters contributed to this report.