Norway should axe AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, expert committee rules

Norway should axe AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, expert committee rules
Phials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Amir MAKAR / AFP
Both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson's vaccine should be dropped from Norway's vaccination program, an expert committee has ruled.

The committee was set up by Norwegian government to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of the two vaccines.

“We do not recommend that the vaccines be used in the national vaccination program due to the serious side effects that have been seen,” chair of the expert committee, Lars Vorland, said at a government press conference.

Minister of Health Bent Høie will later on Monday make the final ruling on whether the two vaccines will be used in Norway’s vaccination program.

The committee also recommended making the two vaccines voluntarily available. The majority of the committee believes that there should be restrictions for who can opt to receive the two vaccines.

AstraZeneca has been on pause since March 11th due to suspected severe side effects, including blood clots. Health authorities in Norway recommended dropping the vaccine on April 15th, but government delayed its decision so the committee could undertake a risk assessment. 

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine

Johnson & Johnson had voluntarily delayed its European rollout over concerns due to reported blood clots.

The two vaccines are based on the same technology.

Some 135,000 people have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca in Norway. Around 90 percent of those who have received the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer’s vaccine were health workers.

Five patients under the age of 50 were admitted to Oslo University Hospital (OUS) with severe blood clots after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. Three of them later died.

One other person died of a brain haemorrhage after taking the vaccine. 

 The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization both recommend continued use of the vaccines, arguing that the benefits far outweigh the associated risks.

Norway made orders for 1.78 million AstraZeneca doses and 3.07 million Johnson and Johnson doses in the past.

Neighbouring Denmark is the only country in Europe that has officially dropped AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines, but many have restricted the use of AstraZeneca’s to certain age groups.

The expert committee also recommended moving those aged between 18-25 higher up on the government’s vaccination priority list.

“We believe it is a good idea to prioritise this age group, even though they tolerate Covid-19 quite well. Summer is approaching and many young people will move around the country a lot. They may start working or studying in another part of the country,” Lars Vorland, leader of the expert committee, said. 


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