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VACCINE

Denmark extends pause of AstraZeneca vaccine for three weeks

Denmark on Thursday extended its suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, saying it had not ruled out a link to blood clots even though the European regulator has deemed it safe.

Denmark extends pause of AstraZeneca vaccine for three weeks
Director of the Danish Health Authority Søren Brostrøm. Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark was the first country to suspend use of the AstraZeneca jab in mid-March, a decision then followed by more than a dozen other mostly European countries, after reports of blood clots potentially linked to the vaccine.

“We have today decided to extend our pause for another three weeks (until April 18th),” director of the Danish Health Authority Søren Brostrøm told a press conference.

“We have discussed this with domestic experts, who still believe that concerns remain. That’s why we are sticking with the pause,” Brostrøm said.

Causing most concern is a combination of blood clots, haemorrhaging and low blood platelet levels that was rare but occasionally fatal.

The World Health Organization has urged countries to continue administering the vaccine, arguing the benefits outweigh the risks.

EU drugs regulator EMA last week said the vaccine was “safe and effective” and not linked to a higher risk of blood clots, but could not “rule out definitively” its role in the rare clotting disorder.

Numerous European countries subsequently lifted their suspensions, while the Nordic nations maintained theirs pending further checks.

“We are not going against the EMA’s decision, we are building upon it and going further,” Brostrøm said.

Brostrøm added that they would continue to investigate whether certain groups were subject to particular risk, how high that risk was and whether it was acceptable.

Finland and Iceland resumed inoculations using the jab this week, but only for seniors.

Sweden was due to announce its decision later Thursday, and a Norwegian decision was expected on Friday.

Denmark, a country of 5.8 million people, has recorded a total of 227,894 cases of Covid-19 and 2,405 associated deaths.

The AstraZeneca suspension has slowed the country’s ambitious vaccination rollout, with 5.7 percent of the population fully vaccinated and a first dose administered to 11.1 percent.

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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