Denmark: Expert gives warning after AstraZeneca rollout halted
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Denmark said on Thursday it had not yet decided what to do with leftover AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after a senior figure from the World Health Organisation suggested the Nordic country would share them with other nations.
Denmark this week became the first country to stop using AstraZeneca’s vaccine altogether, as European officials investigate reports of rare blood clots combined with low platelet counts that have occurred in Europe and Britain.
The decision has sparked debate in Denmark about what to do with the vaccines.
Opposition parties argue the authorities should still make the shot available to Danes willing to take it. The government has asked health authorities to examine this option.
Denmark currently has just over 200,000 vaccines, but is set to receive another 3.5 million under previous agreements, the State Serum Institute told Reuters.
Danish Health Ministry said: “The government has not yet decided what to do with the purchased AstraZeneca vaccines.”
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said her country would gladly take the shots: “We still have fewer vaccines than people willing to be vaccinated. Therefore, Lithuania has expressed readiness to take as many doses of Astra Zeneca, as Denmark is ready to share.”
But the Czech Republic and Latvia are also eyeing the extra jabs.
Czech Health Minister Jan Hamecek tweeted that his country would be interested in Denmark’s remaining doses.
He said: “We are looking for vaccines all over the world, we are willing to buy AstraZeneca from Denmark.”
And Latvia’s Health Minister Daniels Pavluts tweeted: “We will contact Denmark to find out how to apply for these vaccines.”
It is unclear whether any deals between EU member states are even possible under the bloc’s vaccine procurement strategy.
More doses may also become available from Norway.
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The Norwegian government said on Thursday it will take more time to assess whether to resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine or stop it altogether.
The WHO, which along with Britain and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) continues to recommend AstraZeneca’s shot on the grounds that the benefits outweigh the risks, has been pushing countries not to hoard vaccines that they are not using.
World Bank President David Malpass called on countries on Thursday to contribute their “excess” doses of COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries.
The lion’s share of vaccines distributed globally, so far, have gone to wealthier nations.
WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge told reporters on Thursday following talks with Danish Health Authority director Soren Brostrom: “I understand that the ministry of foreign affairs of Denmark is ready to, or looking already into options, for sharing AstraZeneca vaccines with other countries.”
Denmark first suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 and has now decided to “continue the rollout of its vaccination programme, without AstraZeneca”.
The country originally paused the use of the vaccine for three weeks to March 25, with less than 150,000 people in Denmark receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Instead, the country is offering its citizens the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Last week, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced the unusual blood clots would be considered a very rare side effect of the vaccine.
The agency said it had come to its conclusion on the COVID-19 vaccine after taking into consideration all available evidence.
The EMA reminded people the side effects are extremely rare and most cases have been reported in women under the age of 60.
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