World Roundup: • 6 EU states stop AstraZeneca use • UK strain 64% deadlier—study

Health authorities from Denmark and Norway said Thursday they were temporarily suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after some patients developed blood clots since receiving the jab.

The move comes “following reports of serious cases of blood clots among people vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine,” the Danish Health Authority said in a statement. But it cautiously added that “it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”

“We are pausing the AstraZeneca vaccination in Norway. We are waiting for more information to see if there is a link between the vaccine and this blood clot case,” said Geir Bukholm, the director of infection prevention and control at Norway’s National Institute of Health

Austria announced on Monday that it had suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a 49-year-old nurse died of “severe blood coagulation problems” days after receiving an anti-COVID shot.

Four other European countries – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg – have also suspended the use of vaccines from this batch, which was sent to 17 European countries and consisting of one million jabs. Denmark has however suspended the use of all of its AstraZeneca supply.

UK strain 64% deadlier

The coronavirus strain that first emerged in Britain and is now spreading internationally is 64 percent more deadly than pre-existing strains, according to a study published Wednesday that confirms earlier advice to the British government.

British authorities, who had already warned the variant was significantly more transmissible, in January said it was also believed to be up to 40 percent more deadly, based on a number of studies in the UK.

Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said the increased lethality added to its faster spread meant that “this version of the virus presents a substantial challenge to healthcare systems and policy makers.”

Pfizer 97% effective

Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine offers more protection than earlier thought with effectiveness in preventing symptomatic disease reaching 97 percent, according to real-world evidence published Thursday by the pharmaceutical companies.

Using data from January 17 to March 6 from Israel’s national vaccination campaign, Pfizer/BioNTech found that prevention against asymptomatic disease also reached 94 percent.

An earlier real-world study using data from between December 20, 2020 and February 1, 2021 had shown effectiveness at preventing symptomatic disease at 94 percent and asymptomatic illness at 92 percent.

“This comprehensive real-world evidence … can be of importance to countries around the world as they advance their own vaccination campaigns one year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic,” the two pharmaceutical companies said in a statement.

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