Vaccine

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.

New Study Suggests Vaccination Makes You More Susceptible to COVID-19 in the Days After the Jab

Lockdown Sceptics reported last week on two studies that had found an increase in COVID-19 infection risk in the week after the first vaccine dose. A PHE study found a 48% increase in infection risk in the over-80s group 4-9 days after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine (see table below). And the American FDA Emergency Use Authorisation for the Pfizer vaccine found 40% higher “suspected COVID” in the first week after vaccination compared to the control group. As a potential explanation, Lockdown Sceptics noted that in trials the Pfizer vaccine was found to suppress lymphocyte count in the first few days after treatment (see chart above), potentially increasing susceptibility.

PHE study finds a 48% increase in infections 4-9 days after vaccination in the over-80s group treated with the Pfizer mRNA vaccine before January 4th

Now a new paper from Denmark has made a similar finding. Tracking every vaccination given to nursing home residents, it finds a 40% increase in infection risk in the 14 days following the first Pfizer dose (see table below). (Ultimately, it finds a 64% vaccine efficacy for nursing home residents a week after the second dose.)

New study finds a 40% increase in infection risk in the 14 days following the first Pfizer dose among nursing home residents in Denmark

Does this explain why there have been numerous reports of care home outbreaks shortly following vaccination? Could this be why Dr Hervé Seligmann found an elevated death rate among vaccinated people in Israel?

Is anyone in Government or the MHRA asking these questions, if only to rule out any problems?

Personally, I would be reassured to see the overall mortality rate of vaccinated and unvaccinated people over time. I cannot see why it is not routine to collect and publish this data, though it appears it is not. This would be the most straightforward way of establishing whether there is a potential problem that needs addressing in relation to short-term vaccine safety or there is not.

Will the Government publish this data to set our minds at ease?

Denmark Suspends Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine Over Blood Clot Fears

Denmark has halted the rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine following reports of negative side effects relating to blood clots. The Telegraph has the story.

Denmark has temporarily suspended AstraZeneca Covid vaccine shots after reports of cases of blood clots forming, including one in Denmark, Danish authorities said on Thursday.

They did not say how many reports of blood clots there had been, but Austria has stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca shots while investigating a death from coagulation disorders and an illness from a pulmonary embolism.

They said six other European countries had halted the use of a vaccine batch from AstraZeneca.

“Both we and the Danish Medicines Agency have to respond to reports of possible serious side-effects, both from Denmark and other European countries,” the director of the Danish Health Authority, Soren Brostrom, said in a statement.

The vaccine would be suspended for 14 days, the health agency said. It did not give details of the Danish blood clot patient.

AstraZeneca has defended its shot, highlighting that there have been “no confirmed serious adverse events associated with the vaccine”, but is fully supportive of Denmark’s investigation.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: There have been no registered cases of blood clots related to AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine in Spain, according to the country’s Health Secretary, which will continue to use the shots.

Stop Press 2: Norway and Iceland have also stopped giving the AstraZeneca jab and a number of other countries, including Italy, have temporarily stopped using two different batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine, after reports in Italy of a “serious adverse event” linked to one batch and the death in Austria related to another batch. The Telegraph has more.

Stop Press 3: Romanian authorities have temporarily stopped vaccinating people with one batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine as an “extreme precaution” while deaths in Italy are investigated, but are continuing to use other doses from the company. Channel News Asia has more.

Guy de la Bédoyère: Why I’ve Had the Jab

We’re publishing an original piece today by Guy de la Bédoyère about why he decided to get vaccinated. Guy wrote a book about the development of the Polio vaccine, so he’s something of an expert on the subject, although he’s no vaccine evangelist. Indeed, he and his wife decided not to give their children the MMR (although they now deeply regret that decision). However, when it came to the Covid jab, it was a no-brainer. Here is an extract:

I live in a country where many businesses that I care about are going to have no control over what they are required to do by the state. Some of those businesses deal with other countries where they will have even less influence. We also face dealing with foreign businesses which can also impose conditions beyond the UK’s control. Two of my sons live abroad (Vietnam and Mexico). My choice then is predicated in no small part on whether I and my wife will be physically able ever again to travel to see them, or them to see us. If being vaccinated opens that door then so be it.

British Airways and other airlines have been a large part of our lives and we wish to support them. In the end, just as it did for Peter Hitchens, this clinched it for me, though I never really had any doubt. No point in cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Seeing our son, granddaughter, and grandson in Hanoi is a great deal more important to us than fussing about a vaccine which we are not obliged to have anyway. Thanks to Covid we haven’t even met one of the children yet.

I could complain all I liked about the injustice of being prevented from taking a flight if I hadn’t been vaccinated but it’s not a battle I could ever win, and – more to the point – I don’t have the time to waste fighting a battle I wasn’t interested in fighting in the first place. The inconvenience of not having a vaccine would far outweigh the inconvenience of having had it.

As with all Guy’s pieces, this one’s worth reading in full.