Norway should axe AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, expert committee rules

Both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson's vaccine should be dropped from Norway's vaccination program, an expert committee has ruled.

Norway should axe AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, expert committee rules
Phials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Amir MAKAR / AFP

The committee was set up by Norwegian government to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of the two vaccines.

“We do not recommend that the vaccines be used in the national vaccination program due to the serious side effects that have been seen,” chair of the expert committee, Lars Vorland, said at a government press conference.

Minister of Health Bent Høie will later on Monday make the final ruling on whether the two vaccines will be used in Norway’s vaccination program.

The committee also recommended making the two vaccines voluntarily available. The majority of the committee believes that there should be restrictions for who can opt to receive the two vaccines.

AstraZeneca has been on pause since March 11th due to suspected severe side effects, including blood clots. Health authorities in Norway recommended dropping the vaccine on April 15th, but government delayed its decision so the committee could undertake a risk assessment. 

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine

Johnson & Johnson had voluntarily delayed its European rollout over concerns due to reported blood clots.

The two vaccines are based on the same technology.

Some 135,000 people have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca in Norway. Around 90 percent of those who have received the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer’s vaccine were health workers.

Five patients under the age of 50 were admitted to Oslo University Hospital (OUS) with severe blood clots after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. Three of them later died.

One other person died of a brain haemorrhage after taking the vaccine. 

 The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization both recommend continued use of the vaccines, arguing that the benefits far outweigh the associated risks.

Norway made orders for 1.78 million AstraZeneca doses and 3.07 million Johnson and Johnson doses in the past.

Neighbouring Denmark is the only country in Europe that has officially dropped AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines, but many have restricted the use of AstraZeneca’s to certain age groups.

The expert committee also recommended moving those aged between 18-25 higher up on the government’s vaccination priority list.

“We believe it is a good idea to prioritise this age group, even though they tolerate Covid-19 quite well. Summer is approaching and many young people will move around the country a lot. They may start working or studying in another part of the country,” Lars Vorland, leader of the expert committee, said. 

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday 

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Wednesday with The Local’s short roundup of important news. 

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday 
Oslo Operahus. Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

Coronavirus measures extended in Oslo 

Oslo City Council have extended current coronavirus measures until June 18th. 

The decision comes after infections in the Norwegian capital rose by 87 percent last week. 

“Almost 600 were infected. A large amount of those were 16–19-year-old’s who haven’t been vaccinated yet,” Executive Mayor Raymond Johansen told the press on Tuesday. 

Johansen added that another reason for extending measures was that the city council is hoping to lift them for good when they do ease restrictions. 

Click HERE for more on the extension of coronavirus restrictions in Oslo 

The Executive Mayor said the city would also be banning russ, final year high school students who party in the month leading up to their final exams, from “rolling”. 

READ MORE: Could final year high school students in Norway be given earlier Covid-19 vaccines? 

This is where students ride around in special party buses or coaches. 

“If there are many in a russ bus, perhaps in a jovial mood and wanting to dance and shout and have a good time, we see that the risk of infection spreading increases greatly,” Johansen said. 

You can read more on the current measures in Oslo here

Warning systems tested today 

The Norwegian Civil Defence will test its warning systems today at midday. 

The message “Important message- search for information” will be tested in all municipalities where warning system are installed. 

The signal will be sent three times with one-minute pauses between each message. 

There are around 1,250 warning systems installed across Norway that can be used in both war and peacetime. 

“In peacetime, the warning systems can be used in industrial accidents with emissions or toxic or dangerous substances. While in war, the facilities can be used in case of airstrikes,” Sigurd Heier, acting chief of the civil defence, said in a statement.

Press conference on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine 

The government is expected to unveil its voluntary scheme for those who wish to opt-in for the single-use Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, newspaper VG have reported

According to the paper, the plan will be rolled out as early as next week. 

The solution will allow GP’s and private medical clinics to assess those wishing to take the vaccine and print a prescription for it. 

There are currently over 200,000 vaccine doses of the single use vaccine in stock. 

READ ALSO: Norway officially axes AstraZeneca jab and changes vaccine strategy

188 new Covid-19 cases 

On Tuesday, 188 new coronavirus infections were recorded across Norway, a decline of 51 on the seven-day average of 239. 

In the Capital, Oslo, 62 new cases were registered. This is a drop of 26 on the seven-day average. 

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 1.0. This means that every ten people that are infected will, on average, only infect another ten people, indicating that the infection level is stable.

Number of reported Covid-19 cases. Source: NIPH