Norway Told by Health Authority to Stop Using Astra Vaccine
(Bloomberg) -- Norway has been told to stop using AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine in its Covid-19 inoculation program, as the country’s top health authority judges the risk of blood clots to be unacceptable.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said it now has enough information about the “connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the rare and serious incidents of low platelets, blood clots and bleeding” to arrive at its conclusion, according to a statement on Thursday. The announcement came just a day after Denmark became the first European nation to cut Astra from its inoculation plan.
Norway’s government has yet to make a formal decision, which it said will be based on the health authority’s guidance.
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.
In response to Denmark’s announcement on Wednesday, an Astra spokesperson said, “We recognize and respect the decision.”
“Implementation and rollout of the vaccine program is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”
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 Astra’s 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 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. The bigger concern now, however, is that the country might also have to do without Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which has been suspended in the U.S. and shelved in Europe pending reviews of reported blood clots.
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