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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EXPLAINED: How could a new GP funding model in Norway affect you?

The Norwegian government has announced new measures to try and clear up a GP crisis. But how will it affect you and your healthcare needs? 

EXPLAINED: How could a new GP funding model in Norway affect you?

On Tuesday, the Norwegian Minister of Health and Social Care announced at a press briefing that the government would introduce a new funding model for the GP system from May 1st. 

The new system would also come with 720 million kroner of additional funding to try and ease a GP crisis in the country. 

Some 200,000 residents are currently without a regular doctor in Norway, and last year, the GP service received a record number of complaints. 

“The GP scheme is the foundation of our health service. Over a long period of time, the foundation wall has cracked,” Kjerkol said at the briefing. 

The government’s changes mean that GPs would receive subsidies based on patients’ needs rather than a flat rate for all healthcare recipients. 

Essentially this means that doctors who have lots of patients who are elderly, women, or live in municipalities where residents have a lower educational background will receive more money. This is because these patients are deemed to require more follow-ups from doctors.

Additionally, doctors outside the big cities with patients with existing health conditions which require regular appointments or follow-ups would also receive more money. 

This, in theory, should make it easier for patients with the most significant medical needs to access GP appointments. Ensuring greater funding for doctors with more demanding workloads could also have the effect of retaining more GPs. 

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. 

Earlier this year, it was reported by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that there were a record number of complaints about the GP service in Norway. Most complaints were regarding a lack of adequate follow-up and availability. 

For those not deemed to have higher medical needs, the changes may not improve your chances of getting a GP when you need one.

Another change proposed is allowing doctors with a significant workload to cut their patient lists. The government says this will make the workload more manageable and facilitate better healthcare for the patients that remain on the list. 

Previously the Norwegian Association for General Practitioners has said that the high number of patients on GP lists is a major issue for general doctors in Norway. 

“The GPs must have fewer patients on their lists in order for there to be liveable working conditions. It will also lead to fewer doctors wanting to quit, and more newly qualified doctors wanting to work as GPs,” Nils Kristian Klev, head of the Association for General Practitioners, told broadcaster TV 2 last year. 

However, doctors being able to trim down patient lists may also lead to more residents in Norway without a GP, further exacerbating the issue of patients needing access to a regular doctor. 

This is just in theory, though, and it may take months and years to determine whether lowering the workload will lead to more doctors being retained without the added drawback of patients being left without a GP.