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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

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home. 

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