Norway Permanently Removes AstraZeneca From Vaccine Program

Norway will remove the AstraZeneca Plc shots from its Covid-19 inoculation program due to the risk of rare blood clots, in a move the country said will have little effect on the national vaccination timeline.

“The government has decided that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be used in Norway, not even voluntarily,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will remain on hold and may be offered on a voluntary basis, the premier told reporters. The government also decided to start vaccinating younger adults sooner and is considering redistributing more doses to the municipalities with the highest level of infection.

The government last month ordered an expert committee to examine the consequences of not including AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s so-called viral vector vaccines. That was after the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said Astra’s shot shouldn’t be used due to its connection to “rare and serious incidents of low platelets, blood clots and bleeding.” The institute earlier this week also recommended that the Johnson & Johnson jab should be excluded.

Both European and British drug regulators have said they found a link between Astra’s vaccine and blood clots, but said benefits still outweigh the risks. Most Western European countries have limited use of the company’s vaccine to the elderly, while in Eastern Europe Astra has largely been reinstated with no limitations. Denmark has cut Astra from its inoculation plan.

Norway initially put Astra on hold on March 11, after reports of blood clots across a number of countries. Norwegian health authorities then embarked on their own investigation following a spate of local deaths tied to the vaccine. A separate Norwegian study has since found that the blood clots stemmed from a syndrome induced by the Astra vaccine.

The country’s public health institute said last month its calculations suggested that the risk in Norway of dying from Covid-19 across age groups was smaller than the risk of dying from the “serious but rare” side effects that followed the Astra shot, “particularly among young people.”

Norway has said that dropping Astra, which was expected to make up about a fifth of the doses in its immunization program, wouldn’t present a significant hurdle.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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