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HEALTH

Two more die in Norway after receiving AstraZeneca vaccine

Norwegian health authorities have received reports that two more people have died after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Two more die in Norway after receiving AstraZeneca vaccine
GENT SHKULLAKU / AFP

The Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA) said in a statement on Sunday that it received reports from Oslo University Hospital (OUS) that two more people have died after receiving the vaccine, bringing the total to three.

Five patients with a combination of thrombosis, haemorrhaging and low platelet counts have been admitted to OUS after taking the vaccine.

“These are two tragic deaths among the group of patients who have been admitted with a unique combination of blood clots, haemorrhaging and low platelet counts. We have been notified that both of them died today,” Steinar Madsen, medical director of NOMA told newspaper VG.

Madsen did not release details relating to the patients’ identities but news agency NTB has reported that one of them is a health worker.

NOMA said that it could not rule out the cases being related to the vaccine.

“The Norwegian Medicines Agency cannot rule out that these cases may be related to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The European Medicine Agency’s Safety Committee (PRAC) has decided that such cases will now be mentioned in the summary of product characteristics and packaging,” it said in the statement.

“The unusual set of symptoms with blood clots, bleeding and low platelet count has not been observed after vacination with the other coronavirus vaccines that are used in Norway,” the agency also wrote.

READ MORE:Norway ‘disagreed’ with EMA conclusion over AstraZeneca vaccine

Last week a group of experts at OUS concluded that a strong immune response triggered by the AstraZeneca vaccine triggered blood clots in three health workers that received the vaccine.

Norway has temporarily suspended its use of the vaccine. A decision whether use of the vaccine will resume is expected later this week. The EMA last week concluded that AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and effective against Covid-19.

Madsen said that he doesn’t expect to see any more deaths related to the vaccine.

“It’s been a while since we put AstraZeneca on pause, so we hope that there will be no more deaths now,” he said.

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HEALTH

Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office

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