Norway officially axes AstraZeneca jab and changes vaccine strategy

Norway officially axes AstraZeneca jab and changes vaccine strategy
A dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Norway has officially axed the AstraZeneca jab from its vaccine program due to the rare but serious side effects, the country's PM announced on Wednesday. The government also maintained the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson jab.

AstraZeneca was officially dropped days after an expert committee set up by the government ruled that it should be withdrawn from Norway’s vaccine strategy.

PM Erna Solberg made the announcement at a government press conference on Wednesday.

Solberg said the decision had been taken in view of the rare but serious side effects associated with the jabs, which both use the same adenovirus technology. 

The Johnson & Johnson jab will remain suspended but the government will offer the single dose vaccine to those who want it voluntarily. 

“The government has considered whether people can take the vaccines voluntarily. The government concluded that only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be offered voluntarily,” Solberg said. 

The Norwegian Directorate of Health will assess how the vaccine can be offered voluntarily. 

“We will ask the Norwegian Directorate of Health to investigate how this can be done. The Directorate will be asked to look at which criteria should apply in that case, how information about risk should be provided, where the vaccine should be given, and by whom. If the Janssen vaccine is to be offered, it will be free and those who receive it will be covered by the patient injury scheme in case of side effects,” Minister of Health, Bent Høie, said in a statement on the ministry of healths website

The AstraZeneca vaccine had been on pause in Norway since March 11th due to reports of suspected serious side effects such as blood clots. 

Norway will donate its doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries. 

Updated vaccine strategy

Solberg also announced that Norway would be updating its vaccine strategy, with those aged between 18 and 24 moving ahead in the queue. 

They will now be offered a vaccine after everyone over 45 has been vaccinated. 

Those aged between 40 and 44 will be offered vaccines at the same time as those aged between 18 and 25. 

People aged between 25 and 39 will now be the last group to be offered a vaccine. 

Norway will also reprioritise the distribution of vaccines, with areas with consistently high infection pressure receiving up to 60 percent more doses. 

The proposal means that 319 municipalities in Norway will now receive around 35 percent fewer doses than previously planned. 

The PM said that the new strategy will allow Norway to lift restrictions faster.

“The whole of Norway can reopen earlier if we do it this way,” Solberg said. 

From the approximately 135,000 injections of AstraZeneca’s vaccine administered in Norway up until mid-March, eight cases of severe thrombosis were reported, usually in relatively young and healthy people, with four of them being fatal.

Norway suspended the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 while its side effects were studied in more detail.

On April 15, Norwegian health authorities recommended dropping the vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, but the government chose to first set up a committee of experts to examine the risks associated with the jabs.

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.


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.