Norway to retain suspension of AstraZeneca vaccine until at least next week

Norway said on Thursday it would wait before resuming use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine even though it has been declared safe by Europe's medical regulator.

Norway to retain suspension of AstraZeneca vaccine until at least next week
(Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) said that after an investigation the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe and effective” and not linked to an increased risk of blood clots.

The ruling, which was similar to the World Health Organization’s statement, led to European heavyweights Germany, France, Spain and Italy all saying they would soon resume vaccinations with the jab.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) said it “took note” of the EMA’s finding, but deemed it “premature” at this point to come to a final conclusion.

The NIPH said it would issue its own guidance at the end of next week.

“Vaccinations with AstraZeneca will remain suspended until we have a full view of the situation,” institute director Camilla Stoltenberg told media.  

On Thursday, a Norwegian medical team claimed it found a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots in patients who became seriously ill or died a few days after their first injection.

 “We obtained results that could explain the clinical evolution of our hospitalised patients,” said Pål Andre Holme, professor and chief physician at Oslo University Hospital.

“These results support our theory… that these patients had a strong immune response which led to the formation of antibodies that could affect the (blood) platelets and lead to a thrombus” or blood clot, he added.

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

 Asked if the death was caused by the vaccine, he replied: “I don’t see any other possibility at this point,” while emphasising that it was still a question of “indicators”.

Norwegian media said the results were recent and had not been taken into consideration by the EMA.

The European agency’s safety committee concluded that the vaccine was “not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots”, according to EMA chief Emer Cooke.

She nonetheless declined to “rule out definitively” a link to a rare clotting disorder.

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Sweden records world’s first case of bird flu in a porpoise

A porpoise found stranded on a Swedish beach in June died of bird flu, the first time the virus has been detected in one of the marine mammals, Sweden's National Veterinary Institute said on Wednesday.

Sweden records world's first case of bird flu in a porpoise

“As far as we know this is the first confirmed case in the world of bird flu in a porpoise,” veterinarian Elina Thorsson said in a statement. “It is likely that the porpoise somehow came into contact with infected birds,” she said.

The young male was found stranded, alive, on a beach in western Sweden in late June. Despite efforts from the public to get it to swim out to deeper
waters, it was suffering from exhaustion and died the same evening.

The bird flu virus, H5N1, was found in several of its organs. “Contrary to seals, where illnesses caused by a flu virus have been detected multiple times, there have been only a handful of reports of flu virus in cetaceans”, Thorsson said.

The virus has also previously been detected in other mammals, including red foxes, otters, lynx and skunks, the institute said.

Europe and North America are currently seeing a vast outbreak of bird flu among wild birds.