Vaccine

NHS Warns of “Significant Reduction” in Vaccines

Britain’s rollout of the vaccine has been successful to date – half of all UK adults are expected to have had their first jab by the end of the week. An NHS letter suggests, however, that a setback could be approaching in the form of a “significant reduction in the weekly supply” of Covid vaccines next month. The BBC has the story.

The NHS has warned of a “significant reduction in the weekly supply” of coronavirus vaccines next month in a letter to local health organisations.

The letter says there has been a “reduction in national inbound vaccines supply” and asks organisations to “ensure no further appointments are uploaded” to booking systems in April.

The Health Secretary said the letter, seen by the BBC, was “standard”.

The BBC understands no-one who has booked a vaccine should lose a slot. 

Asked about it during a Downing Street coronavirus briefing, Matt Hancock said the NHS regularly sent out “technical letters” that explained the “ups and downs” of supply.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg has been told that fewer AstraZeneca vaccines are available than expected.

The letter says that “over this next period it is vital” that health organisations focus on vaccinating those in the priority groups one to nine, who are most vulnerable to coronavirus

It advises vaccination services to work with local authorities, voluntary community and faith organisations “to put in place reserve lists” of people eligible for the vaccine – as well as targeting areas of lower uptake.

Nick Triggle suggests that the increased risk of a vaccine shortage could be a result of the EU’s threat to restrict vaccine exports.

It is unclear what has caused this drop in supply. Government sources are suggesting the amount produced by manufacturers is below the expected yields. But this has been denied by those firms.

Given that we do rely on supply from Europe for some of our vaccine, the fact it comes on the day the EU warned it may restrict exports has raised questions whether this might be part of the cause.

The number of doses available may drop to under two million a week in April. That is a little below what has been available in the past couple of weeks and will be half the level the NHS has been told it will have for the next two “bumper” weeks.

Worth reading in full.

Holiday Hopes Sink for Unvaccinated, Who Will Be Banned from P&O Cruises This Summer

P&O Cruises will restart holidays around the British coast this year, but only for Brits who have been fully vaccinated against Covid – and many other restrictions will be enforced. The Mail has the story.

Unvaccinated holidaymakers will be banned from P&O Cruises “staycation” sailings this summer.

Brits who wish to sail on a domestic cruise will have to have received both doses of the Covid vaccine at least seven days in advance of their trip, the UK’s largest cruise line has said.

Last week maritime minister Robert Courts told MPs that domestic cruises could be permitted from May 17th.

So far nearly 25 million people have received at least their first dose of a vaccine, while 1.6 million have received both.

Failure to provide proof of the jabs “will result in denial of boarding”, the firm warned.

Other measures introduced due to the pandemic include requiring passengers to wear masks in certain areas of the ship, and making travel insurance mandatory.

There will also be enhanced cleaning regimes, as well as social distancing.

The cruise operator is taking a different approach to a number of countries – including Turkey and Greece – which will welcome unvaccinated holidaymakers, so long as they produce a negative test.

Worth reading in full.

The AstraZeneca Scare May Be Overdone, But Rare Side Effects May Still Occur

Eighteen countries have now suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine pending a review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) into concerns about it causing serious blood clots. They are: Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Iceland, Portugal, Ireland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Slovenia, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Latvia, Indonesia and Venezuela.

Many scientists and commentators have criticised the regulators and governments taking these decisions as misapplying the precautionary principle – in a number of cases, as Toby notes, speaking without a hint of self-awareness as those same commentators have been cheerleaders of the lockdowns for the last 12 months, typically justified through an abuse of the precautionary principle on scant data.

The head of Italy’s medicines regulator, Nicola Magrini, today claimed the bans across Europe were part of a politically driven snowball effect with countries within the EU coming under pressure to follow suit. Given the hard time European countries have given the Oxford jab in recent weeks (definitely not because it’s British, of course) – swinging, as Ross Clark remarks, “from accusing the company – and Britain – of hoarding the vaccine and failing to supply it to EU countries, to claiming that it is ineffective, back to accusing us of hoarding it again” – it is easy to buy this argument and suspect the actions are not simply all about safety. If that is so, you have to wonder what these governments think they’re doing, playing politics with vaccines, and whether their electorates will thank them for depriving them of long-awaited inoculations for the sake of scoring a few points against renegade Blighty and awkward AstraZeneca.

Is there anything to the concerns? Commentators today have been quick to point out that COVID-19 is “100,000 times more dangerous, compared to the tiny possibility of an issue with clotting”. There is also the inconsistency (raising questions of politics again) of targeting the AstraZeneca vaccine when, according to data from the MHRA, more people have reported blood clots after having the Pfizer vaccine than the Oxford one – up to February 28th there were 38 reports from 11.5 million doses of Pfizer, compared to 30 from 9.7m of AstraZeneca.

On the other hand, blood disorders as a whole have been reported at more than twice the rate in relation to the AstraZeneca shot compared with Pfizer, while a letter in the BMJ yesterday argued that if you look at reports of deep vein thrombosis and vascular (blood vessel) disorders then the Oxford vaccine comes out much worse.

Italy and France to “Quickly Resume” AstraZeneca Rollout When EU Medicines Agency Gives Green Light

The leaders of Italy and France have made it clear that they will “quickly resume” their countries’ rollouts of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine when the European Medicines Agency gives the green light, as it’s expected to on Thursday. MailOnline has the story.

The leaders of Italy and France today committed to “quickly” resume inoculations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine once the European regulator gives the all-clear. 

Italian PM Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to roll the pitch for an imminent climbdown.

On a call the two leaders agreed they were ready to resume using the jab “quickly” if the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gives the green light on Thursday.

Mario Draghi’s office said “the preliminary statement today from EMA was positive”. The EMA has found “no indication” that AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine is the cause of reported blood clots.

A top European Commission official today urged EU governments to stop sitting on their vaccine stockpiles.

Stella Kyriakides, the Health Commissioner, said the bloc was in a “race against time” to roll out the vaccine or face several more spikes in infections.

The EU has already seen a disastrous rollout of the vaccine across the continent, with just 8% of adults receiving a jab compared to a third in the UK.

There have been supply problems with both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs, but it was revealed earlier that several countries including Germany are sitting on stockpiles.

“Even with the immense and regrettable challenges around production capacity and deliveries, there are reports of unused reservoirs of vaccines across the EU,” said Kyriakides following talks with European health ministers. …

While Italy has used all of its Pfizer jabs, the country still has 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines that it banned from going to Australia in storage.

According to the Times, there are some 14.2 million jabs (60%) delivered to EU governments that are yet to be used. 

It seems as though this saga is coming to an end. But might another now commence over Pfizer’s Covid vaccine, which has been linked to more blood clots than AstraZeneca’s in reports from the UK? That’s unlikely given that the Chief of Italy’s medicines regulator has claimed that bans across Europe of the AstraZeneca vaccine were the results of “political” choices.

Worth reading in full.

European Medicines Agency Says “No Indication” AstraZeneca Jab Is Cause of Blood Clots

The EU’s medicines agency has responded to concerns over the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, saying there is “no indication” that the vaccine is the cause of reported blood clots. Sky News has the story.

The European Union’s medicines agency has said there is “no indication” that AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is the cause of reported blood clots.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been carrying out a case-by-case evaluation of incidents and was expected to complete a review on Thursday, said Executive Director Emer Cooke.

The regulator said it was “firmly convinced” the vaccine’s benefits outweighed the risk of side effects.

The WHO has urged countries to continue using the jab as global medical experts meet to discuss reports of blood clots.

UK leaders and medical professionals have joined in their defence of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after some European countries – including Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Sweden – paused its use due to concerns over possible adverse side effects. …

Now, France has said it expects inoculations there to resume after the agency meets and issues its recommendations. …

The EMA has said “many thousands of people” develop blood clots every year in the EU and “the number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population”. …

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s Chief Scientist, [also] told a media briefing “we do not want people to panic”, as she said no association has been found so far between blood clots and Covid vaccines.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Vaccine Supply Surge Means Half of UK Adults Will Soon Be Jabbed

All remaining over-50s in the UK are expected to become eligible for a Covid vaccine in the coming days with a surge in supply meaning half of all adults will have had their first jab by the end of the week. iNews has the story.

The number of doses being administered across the UK has begun to accelerate rapidly with as many as five million jabs likely to be given out this week – more than twice the rate seen in March so far.

On Saturday and Sunday more than 800,000 people received a vaccine against coronavirus, up 33% on the previous weekend. In recent days the amount of vaccine supply available has significantly increased, which allows the NHS in England and devolved health services to boost the number of first doses they give out while ensuring that those who got a jab in December and early January can now access their second dose.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We are expecting that, taking first and second doses together, there will be around 400,000 vaccinations done over the course of this week.” 

If the other nations of the UK accelerate their own programmes in line with Scotland’s, nearly five million jabs will be given out this week – taking the country past the symbolic milestone of giving a dose to half all those aged 18 or older. The previous record for a single week was around 3.1 million.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Tom Chivers has written an article for UnHerd on the “stupid, harmful decision” by various European countries to suspend their rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

France and Germany Suspend Rollouts of Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Amid Blood Clot Concerns

Germany and France are the latest countries to put their rollouts of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine on hold because of fears over blood clotting. Boris Johnson, Britain’s medicines regulator and AstraZeneca itself have all defended the vaccine as safe to use. Sky News has the story on Germany’s suspension.

Germany is suspending use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in order to investigate reports of blood clots.

The country’s Health Ministry said the measure was a “precaution”. …

In a statement, the German health ministry said the reported blood clots involved cerebral veins, but did not specify where or when the incidents happened.

It said its decision to suspend the vaccine was taken on the advice of national regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute.

The ministry said the EMA would decide “whether and how the new information will affect the authorisation of the vaccine”.

The Telegraph has the following on France:

Emmanuel Macron said that French authorities have decided to suspend shots at least until Tuesday afternoon, when the European Medicines Agency will issue its recommendation over the vaccine.

Yesterday, Ireland and the Netherlands followed the example of other EU countries – including Norway and Denmark – in halting their AstraZeneca vaccine rollouts amid reports of “bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets” in health workers who had recently received the vaccine. One particular batch of AstraZeneca vaccines (which is implicated in reports of a death) was sent to 17 countries.

The greater the concern over the vaccine, the greater the defence from others. On March 14th, AstraZeneca addressed safety concerns in a statement.

A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and UK with Covid Vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.

So far across the EU and UK, there have been 15 events of DVT and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine, based on the number of cases the Company has received as of 8 March. This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines. …

Furthermore, in clinical trials, even though the number of thrombotic events was small, these were lower in the vaccinated group. There has also been no evidence of increased bleeding in over 60,000 participants enrolled.

Responding to Germany’s suspension of the jab’s rollout, Boris Johnson said the vaccine is “both safe and effective”:

“[The UK has] one of the toughest and most experienced regulators in the world.

“They see no reason at all to discontinue the vaccination programme… they believe that they are effective, highly effective in driving down not just hospitalisations but also serious disease and mortality. We continue to be very confident about the programme.”

Representatives of Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency added that the evidence “does not suggest” the jab causes clots.

We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Professor Anthony Harden, the Deputy Chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has hit back at claims that the vaccine increases risk of blood clotting, saying: “We’ve given 11 million doses here and there’s no evidence of increased risk of blood clots.” The JCVI can now be added to the list of organisations that have dismissed concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine which includes the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

More Countries Halt Rollout of AstraZeneca Vaccine

Ireland and the Netherlands have joined the list of countries that have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine because of fears over blood clotting. The Dutch Government has announced a suspension until at least March 29th. Both countries have paused their rollout efforts due to reports of “bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets” in health workers who had recently received the vaccine.

The Republic of Ireland’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer acknowledged in a statement that “it has not been concluded that there is any link between the Covid vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases [of clotting]”.

However, acting on the precautionary principal, and pending receipt of further information, the NIAC (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) has recommended the temporary deferral of the Covid vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.

The NIAC is due to meet again this morning. A further statement will follow thereafter.

AstraZeneca addressed these safety concerns in a statement issued at 6pm last night.

A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and UK with Covid Vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.

So far across the EU and UK, there have been 15 events of DVT and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine, based on the number of cases the Company has received as of 8 March. This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines. …

Furthermore, in clinical trials, even though the number of thrombotic events was small, these were lower in the vaccinated group. There has also been no evidence of increased bleeding in over 60,000 participants enrolled.

One particular batch of AstraZeneca vaccines (which is involved in reports of a death) was sent to 17 countries, an increasing number of which are putting the rollout of this vaccine on hold.

Stop Press: Health officials in Northern Ireland have announced that they will continue to use the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after its suspension in the Republic of Ireland.

Half of Bosses Won’t Allow Unvaccinated Staff Back into Offices, Survey Finds

A survey of more than 300 business owners indicates that a significant proportion of unvaccinated workers will not be allowed to return to their workplaces, even when lockdown restrictions are lifted. The Mail has the story.

Half of business owners say they won’t allow their staff to return to offices if they haven’t had a Covid vaccine.

A survey of more than 300 bosses found that 51% would allow only those who had been jabbed to visit company premises.

The study, which covered firms that employ fewer than 250 staff, comes as more companies prepare for a return to workplaces as lockdown eases…

Tycoon Charlie Mullins, who founded Pimlico Plumbers, has already said he will introduce a “no jab, no job” policy for new employees

Meanwhile, other employers are considering using health passports so that only vaccinated staff or those who have tested negative for Covid can enter their offices.

The results of this survey – conducted by Yonder on behalf of Cignpost ExpressTest – suggest that even “hybrid working” (working from home some of the time) won’t be allowed by over half of Britain’s bosses for those who decide against taking the vaccine.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: We ran a post about the legality of ‘No Jab, No Job’ and whether employees could refuse to comply and keep their jobs here.

Three Norwegian Health Workers in Hospital with “Unusual” Symptoms After Receiving AstraZeneca Jab

Concerns about the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine have intensified following reports of three Norwegian health workers suffering from blood clots and a low count of blood platelets after receiving the jab. Reuters has the story.

Three health workers in Norway who recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid are being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets, Norwegian health authorities said on Saturday.

Norway halted on Thursday the rollout of that vaccine, following a similar move by Denmark. Iceland later followed suit.

“We do not know if the cases are linked to the vaccine,” Sigurd Hortemo, a senior doctor at the Norwegian Medicines Agency told a news conference held jointly with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

All three individuals were under the age of 50.

The European medicine regulator EMA would investigate the three incidents, Hortemo added.

“They have very unusual symptoms: bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets,” Steinar Madsen, Medical Director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency told broadcaster NRK.

“They are quite sick…We take this very seriously,” he said, adding authorities had received notification of the cases on Saturday.

AstraZeneca was not immediately available for comment.

A number of European countries have halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine following reports of negative side effects relating to blood clots. AstraZeneca has highlighted that there have been “no confirmed serious adverse events associated with the vaccine”, but is supportive of ongoing investigations.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Ireland has temporarily halted its use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab following the above reports of blood clots in vaccinated people.