Director of Denmark's National Board of Health Soeren Brostroem addresses a press conference to explain why the AstraZeneca vaccine is stopped in Denmark, on April 14, 2021 in Copenhagen. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

Many European countries on Thursday expressed their interest in purchasing unwanted AstraZeneca vaccines from Denmark.

Hans Kluge, the Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Europe said Denmark was considering sharing unused doses with poorer countries, reported euronews.

"I understand that the ministry of foreign affairs of Denmark is ready to, or looking already into options, for sharing AstraZeneca vaccines with poorer countries," Kluge told a virtual press conference.

Kluge expressed his "appreciation" that Denmark was following the WHO's recommendations on the matter and sympathised with the decision to suspend AstraZeneca's vaccine.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Denmark became the first European country to abandon AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine due to a link with extremely rare cases of blood clots.

A day later, Norway's Public Health Institute also recommended against further use of the jab.

However, the WHO has reiterated that the jab is "safe and effective" against COVID-19 and that the risk of thrombosis and blood clots is "much higher" if you contract the virus.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has maintained that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of side effects, explaining that COVID-19 is a "very serious disease".

On the other hand, other EU member states have limited AstraZeneca doses to certain age groups.

Danish authorities have said "it is important to emphasise that it (AstraZeneca) is still an approved vaccine" and did not rule out using it in the future amid a rise in infection rates in the country.

On Wednesday, the Czech Health Minister Jan Hamacek tweeted that his country would be interested in Denmark's remaining doses.

"We are looking for vaccines all over the world, we are willing to buy AstraZeneca from Denmark," Hamacek said.

Meanwhile, Lithuania's Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said Vilnius would also be willing to buy vaccines, and neighbouring Latvia has also expressed interest.

"We will contact Denmark to find out how to apply for these vaccines," tweeted Latvia's Health Minister Daniels Pavluts.

However, it is not yet clear whether such deals are possible and permitted under EU procurement rules.

Several Danish political parties have also suggested that the surplus doses be distributed to Danes who are willing to receive AstraZeneca despite the health authorities' suspension.

The European Commission currently has a portfolio of 2.6 billion doses from several companies, including AstraZeneca, and is negotiating further contracts.

Norway should stop using AstraZeneca vaccine, says country's public health institute

A day after Denmark's decision to abandon the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine over links with very rare blood clots, Norway's public health institute on Thursday said the country should stop using it.

Both the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency have said the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks.
"There is now significantly more knowledge about the connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the rare and serious incidents of low platelets, blood clots and bleeding than when Norway chose to put further use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on pause in March," said Geir Bukholm, director of infection control at Norway's National Institute of Public Health.

"Based on this knowledge, we have arrived at a recommendation that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be removed from the coronary vaccination programme in Norway."

On March 11, authorities had suspended the rollout of the vaccine after a small number of people who had received the jab were hospitalised with a combination of blood clots and a low count of platelets, with three cases proving fatal.

Bukholm said that now, with "significantly more knowledge" about the connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare incidents of blood clotting and low platelets, Norway should cease use of the vaccine.

The institute estimated that pulling distribution of the AstraZeneca jab would likely bring about a delay in overall vaccine rollout by two weeks.

Bukholm said that it had not been easy to come to that recommendation. However, he suggested he believe it was a necessary step.

Those who have already received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to be offered another coronavirus jab as their second dose.

However, the country's public health institute said it would be offering more information on the specifics of the programme in the coming days.

Source: ANI