Norwegian experts conclude ‘strong immune response’ from AstraZeneca vaccine linked to blood clots

A group of medical experts at Oslo University Hospital said on Thursday that blood clots in three health workers who took the AstraZeneca vaccine were triggered by an immune system response.

Norwegian experts conclude 'strong immune response' from AstraZeneca vaccine linked to blood clots

Three health care workers under the age of 50 were admitted to hospital with severe blood clots after taking the vaccine. One of the three later died of a brain haemorrhage.

“We have found the cause. There is nothing but the vaccine that can explain the immune reaction that occurred,” Pål Andre Holme, professor and chief physician at Oslo University Hospital told newspaper VG.

Holme led a team that worked round the clock to find out why the health workers, who were all aged under 50, were admitted to hospital with blood clots after taking the vaccine.

Now they believe they have confirmed a theory that there was an immune system reaction associated with the vaccine.

“Our theory that this is a strong immune response which with high probability came after the vaccine has been found,” Holme said.

“In collaboration with (the specialist department for blood clots) at the University Hospital of North Norway (UNN), we have now proved that it is specific anti-bodies against platelets that can give the outcome that we have seen elsewhere in medicine, and with medication as the triggering cause,” he continued.

READ ALSO: Norway health official counters AstraZeneca over vaccine safety statement

The specialist also said that there was “no other medical history in these patients that could give such a strong immune response”. He stressed that antibodies in general are not the cause of the problem, which involves “very specific” antibodies.

The reaction in the cases in question involved blood clots and a lack of platelets, VG writes.

When asked if he thinks the findings mean that the vaccination should be stopped, Holme said that this was up to Norwegian Medicines Agency to decide.

“I have no idea about that, it is not me who should assess it,” he said according to Aftenposten.  

Norway has already suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. So far Norway has vaccinated 120,000 people with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to present its assessment of the vaccine at 5pm on Thursday, after several countries in the EU suspended its use. One of the assessments that the EMA must decide on is whether they will withdraw the approval of the vaccine for use.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency is waiting on the EMA´s Assessment before commenting, VG reports. AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of the vaccine, also declined to immediately comment on the matter.

“We are awaiting the EMA’s decision later today,” AstraZeneca’s head of media communications Christina Malmberg Hägerstrand told news agency NTB.

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GP shortage in Norway much larger than previous estimates indicate

The number of those in Norway without a GP is much higher than previous estimates from the Norwegian Directorate of Health suggest, according to a new survey among doctors.

GP shortage in Norway much larger than previous estimates indicate

As many as 235,000 in Norway lack a GP, a number far higher than previous estimates from the Norwegian Directorate of Health, according to a report from broadcaster TV2

Previous figures from the Norwegian Directorate of Health had the number of those without a doctor at around 175,000. 

“The GP crisis is now completely out of control. Today, every 24th citizen in Norway lacks a GP,” Nils Kristian Klev, head of the Association for General Practitioners, told TV2

The figures reported by TV2 come from a survey carried out by the GP association that more than 75 percent of general practitioners in the country responded to.

In a previous survey run by The Local, foreign residents in Norway highlighted that trouble getting an appointment or not being assigned a GP was one of their biggest criticisms of the Norwegian healthcare system, which they rated favourably overall. 

READ MORE: What do foreigners think of the Norwegian healthcare system?

“The GP crisis is very real, and therefore the government has promised that we will come up with powerful measures in the 2023 budget,” Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol said of the survey’s results to TV2. 

Norway’s government announced an expert committee review into the current GP system to tackle a ‘crisis’ within the current model in August.

The objective of the expert committee will be to provide specific recommendations on how the GP system can be improved so that all residents have a permanent GP, in addition to finding a sustainable model, the government said in August. 

One flaw with the current system in the eyes of the medical association is the high number of people on GP’s patient lists. 

“The GPs must have fewer patients on their lists in order for there to be livable working conditions. It will also lead to fewer doctors wanting to quit and more newly qualified doctors wanting to work as GPs,” Klev said. 

To cut down the number of patients on GP’s lists, Klev says the government would need to stump around 2.3 billion kroner to try and recruit around 1,000 new GPs.