SHARE
COPY LINK

FEATURE

Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine

Norway's health authority has recommended AstraZeneca be withdrawn from its Covid-19 vaccination program, but the country's government has delayed a final decision until May.  

Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine
Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

The government has said it believes more information is needed before making a final decision on the AstraZeneca vaccine, after the Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommended it be withdrawn from the national vaccination programme.

A final decision will be given on May 10th, Health Minister Bent Høie said at a press briefing on Thursday afternoon.

“The government believes we do not yet have a good enough basis for drawing final conclusions,” Høie said.     

“We must assess the consequences for the health of the entire population if we have to live with restrictions for longer than other countries in Europe”, he added.  

Use of AstraZeneca has been on hold in Norway since March 11th due to suspected serious side effects including blood clots and low platelet counts.  

The government said it was setting up an expert committee to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment on the vaccine. The committee will submit its report ahead of the decision in May .

The risk assessment will look at both AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has delayed its European rollout due to reported blood clots.

“We set up this committee because we want to know more about the consequences for the population and society before we make a decision,” Høie said.

Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are based on the same vaccine technology. As such, a decision by to withdraw AstraZeneca in May could also be significant for Johnson & Johnson’s single use Janssen vaccine.

“If we now say no to AstraZeneca, it could have consequences for the opportunity to use Johnson & Johnson,” Høie said.

Norway has ordered over a million doses of the Janssen vaccine.

The vaccination program in Norway could face delays of up to seven weeks if both serums are dropped according to head of the NIPH, Camilla Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg also said the recommendation to recommend withdrawing the vaccine was one of the hardest decisions the authority has made during the pandemic.

So far, five patients under the age of 50 have been admitted to Oslo University Hospital (OUS) with severe blood clots after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. Three of them have died.

Experts at the hospital have said the blood clots were triggered by a strong immune response linked to the Anglo-Swedish manufacturers serum.

The European Medicines Agency last week came to the conclusion that the unusual blood clots suffered by numerous people around Europe should be considered as rare side effects of the vaccine.

The EMA added that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.  

On Wednesday Denmark became the first country in the world to scrap the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAVEL

Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany

SHOW COMMENTS