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Denmark, Norway, Iceland Suspend AstraZeneca Vaccination After Blood Clot Reports

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Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine over concerns about patients developing post-jab blood clots, as the manufacturer and Europe’s medicines watchdog insisted the vaccine was safe.

Denmark was first to announce its suspension, “following reports of serious cases of blood clots” among people who had received the vaccine, the country’s Health Authority said in a statement.

It stressed the move was precautionary, and that “it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots”.

However, Europe’s medicines regulator said Thursday there appeared to be no higher risk of blood clots in those vaccinated against Covid-19, after Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab.

“The information available so far indicates that the number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population,” the European Medicines Agency told AFP by email when asked about the suspension.

As of March 9, 22 cases of blood clots had been reported among more than three million people vaccinated in the European Economic Area, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.

Austria announced on Monday that it had suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a 49-year-old nurse died of “severe blood coagulation problems” days after receiving an anti-Covid shot.

Four other European countries — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg — have also suspended the use of vaccines from this batch, which was sent to 17 European countries and consisted of one million jabs.

Denmark however suspended the use of all of its AstraZeneca supply, as did Iceland and Norway in subsequent announcements on Thursday citing similar concerns.

On Wednesday, the EMA said a preliminary probe showed that the batch of AstraZeneca vaccines used in Austria was likely not to blame for the nurse’s death.

“This is a super-cautious approach based on some isolated reports in Europe,” said Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“The risk and benefit balance is still very much in favour of the vaccine,” he said.

AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company which developed the vaccine with Oxford University, defended the safety of its product.

“The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well tolerated,” a spokesman for the group told AFP.

Britain, whose widely-praised vaccine rollout has been largely underpinned by the AstraZeneca jab, also defended it as “both safe and effective”.

The Danish suspension, which will be reviewed after two weeks, is expected to slow down the country’s vaccination campaign.

Denmark now expects to have its entire adult population vaccinated by mid-August instead of early July, the health authority said.

“We are of course saddened by this news,” said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Frederiksen, who has pushed for the production of more vaccines and has formed a controversial alliance with Austria and Israel to do so, defended the Danish health authorities’ decision.

“There is always a risk associated with vaccines,” she told reporters.

“Things have gone well in Denmark, but there are some risks linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine that need to be examined more closely. That seems to me to be the right way to proceed.”

Danish Health Authority director Soren Brostrom stressed that “we have not terminated the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we are just pausing its use”.

“There is broad documentation proving that the vaccine is both safe and efficient,” Brostrom said.

“But both we and the Danish Medicines Agency must act on information about possible serious side effects, both in Denmark and in other European countries.”

Denmark said one person had died after receiving the vaccine. The EMA has launched an investigation into that death.

In the Scandinavian country of 5.8 million, around 25 percent of those who have received a first dose were given the AstraZeneca jab.

In total, 3.8 percent of the population has received two doses of vaccine and 13.4 percent at least one dose.

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Nigeria Records Highest Covid-19 Cases In Six Months

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As states struggle to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, Nigeria is now averaging more than 700 new cases, says the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The NCDC, which disclosed this on Thursday morning, added that the country registered 790 additional infections on Wednesday, increasing the 610 cases it registered a day earlier.

Owing to a sudden surge, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, the country’s average daily COVID-19 cases showed that Wednesday’s increase was the highest since February.

The surge resulted in the federal government calling on Nigerians to take responsibility and adhere to preventive measures.

The NCDC noted that states were struggling to curb the spread of the Delta variant. Due to the spread, NCDC observed that Lagos set a new record for COVID-19 on Wednesday with 574 cases, and infections in Rivers jumped to 83, Ondo (38), Ogun (31), Oyo (23), Delta (10), the FCT (9), Ekiti (7), Edo (6), Osun (4).

Anambra and Bayelsa recorded two cases each, and Plateau had one, while Kano, Nasarawa, and Sokoto, reported zero cases, NCDC said.

One new death was also recorded on Wednesday, bringing the nation’s fatality count, since the pandemic started, to 2,195.

The NCDC added that 74 people recovered and were discharged from various isolation centres on Wednesday, with total recoveries nationwide since the onset of the pandemic clocking 166,203.

It also disclosed that the country’s active cases had soared to 11,500

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Threat Of COVID-19 Third Wave Real, Imminent In Africa – WHO

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Representative of the World Health Organisation in Nigeria (WHO) Walter Kazadi has said that the threat of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was real and imminent in most African countries including Nigeria.

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, Kazadi stated that adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures such as social distancing, regular washing of hands and coughing into bent elbows should be intensified.

He stressed the need for rapid distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and adherence to the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions, recommended by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Also speaking at the press briefing, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Faisal Shuaib said Nigeria is set to receive 3.92 million additional doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX.

“We now have information that Nigeria will get 3.92 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca by the end of July or early August, 2021.

“As we receive additional information on the exact dates, we will provide an update regarding timelines and details,” Shuaib said.

Shuaib also urged Nigerians who had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to get the second dose on or before the close of its administration by June 25.

“Recall that we officially closed the vaccination for the first dose on May 24, 2021. Since then, we have been inundated with requests by Nigerians to be vaccinated. In response, we have decided to reopen vaccination for the first dose from today.

“This means anyone 18 years and above who has not been vaccinated should visit the nearest vaccination site for the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“For such persons, their second dose will be due in 12 weeks and by then we would have received the next consignment of vaccines.”

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Pfizer Identifies Counterfeit Covid-19 Vaccines In Mexico, Poland

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US pharmaceutical company Pfizer has identified fake doses of its vaccine against Covid-19 in Mexico and Poland, Sputnik quoted The Wall Street Journal report.

In Mexico, some 80 people got fraudulent vaccines at a clinic for about US$1,000 (RM4,110) per dose. The doses also had fake labels.

In Poland, fake doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are likely to have been an anti-wrinkle medicine. The Polish authorities said that no one had received the fake vaccines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. To date, more than 143.48 million people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, with over 3.05 million fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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