Norway says too soon to say if AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots

OSLO (Reuters) – It is still too early to say if there is a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and three cases of bleeding, blood clots and low levels of platelets reported in Norway, the country’s health authorities said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: People walk on the street in Oslo, Norway March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

Norway halted the roll-out of AstraZeneca’s vaccine last week, following a similar move by Denmark, amid reports of “unusual symptoms” that required hospitalisation for three health workers who had received the shot. One has since died.

“Based on the information we have now, we do not know whether there is a link between the serious reported conditions and the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Camilla Stoltenberg, the head of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), told a news conference.

FHI was analysing the number of such cases in the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations to make comparisons.

Authorities are also awaiting initial findings from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), expected on Thursday, before deciding whether to resume AstraZeneca inoculations.

The EMA said this week it sees no reason to change its recommendation of AstraZeneca – one of four vaccines that it has approved.

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.

Irrespective of the results of the Norwegian and European probes into possible side effects, FHI is now considering whether to continue using AstraZeneca in its national programme because of delivery delays, Stoltenberg said.

In addition, “the priority is to have a clear and organised process to assess possible side effects so that the population and health workers know what it is known and what is being assessed,” she said. “We must keep trust in vaccines.”

Oslo has been using the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines alongside AstraZeneca’s, until the latter’s roll-out was suspended.

As of March 16, the nation of 5.4 million had vaccinated more than 451,000 people with a first dose, and nearly 258,000 had received a second dose, according to FHI data.

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