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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
Photo: JENS SCHLUETER / AFP

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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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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