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AstraZeneca suspension: Blood-clot risk ‘no higher in vaccinated people’

Europe's medicines regulator said Thursday there appeared to be no higher risk of blood clots in those vaccinated against Covid-19, after Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab.

AstraZeneca suspension: Blood-clot risk 'no higher in vaccinated people'
Photo:Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

“The information available so far indicates that the number of thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population,” the European Medicines Agency told AFP by email when asked about the suspension.

The Amsterdam-based regulator said it understood the Danish decision “has been taken as precaution”.

The EMA said the decision followed the regulator’s own announcement on Wednesday that it was “reviewing thromboembolic events reported in temporal association with the vaccine” after reports of cases in Austria.

The watchdog said it “will continue its assessment and EMA will communicate updates as soon as possible,” the agency said.

In its announcement on Austria on Wednesday, the EMA had said there had been 22 ‘thromboembolic events’ among three million people who received the vaccine across the European Economic Area, which includes Norway and Iceland.

The Danish suspension, which will be reviewed after two weeks, is expected to slow down the country’s vaccination campaign.

Austria said 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 consisted of one million jabs.

Denmark however suspended the use of all of its AstraZeneca supply, as did Iceland and Norway in subsequent announcements on Thursday citing similar concerns.

AstraZeneca has said that an analysis of its own data did not show any increased risk of blood clots, Danish news wire Ritzau reports.

“An analysis if our data has not shown any form of risk of blood clots in the lungs or in deep veins within any age group, sex, in any batch (of vaccines) or in any country that has used AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” it said in a written comment.

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COVID-19

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.” 

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