In recent days, countries including Denmark, Ireland, and Thailand have temporarily suspended their use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine after reports that some people who got a dose developed blood clots, even though there’s no evidence that the shot was responsible.
Denmark was the first country to halt its use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine last week after reports of blood clots in some people, including one person who developed multiple clots and died 10 days after receiving at least one dose.
Norway, Iceland, Bulgaria, Thailand, and Congo soon followed suit. On Saturday, Norwegian authorities reported that four people under age 50 who had gotten the AstraZeneca vaccine had an unusually low number of blood platelets. That could lead to severe bleeding. On Sunday, Ireland and the Netherlands announced that they, too, were stopping their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine temporarily.
Authorities in the Netherlands — like those elsewhere — said their suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine was strictly precautionary.
“We must always err on the side of caution, which is why it is sensible to press the pause button now as a precaution,” said Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch health minister.
Still, several other countries have stuck with the vaccine.
In response to the suspensions of its vaccine, AstraZeneca said it had carefully reviewed the data on 17 million people who received doses across Europe. It said there was “no evidence of an increased risk” of blood clots in any age group or gender in any country.
IS THERE ANY PROOF THE VACCINE IS RESPONSIBLE?
No. The European Medicines Agency says there is “no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions.” The EU regulator said the number of reports of blood clots in people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine was no higher than for those who hadn’t gotten the shot.
In Britain, where 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered — more than any other country — there have been reports of about 11 people who developed blood clots after getting a shot. None were proven to have been caused by the vaccine.
Some doctors pointed out that since vaccination campaigns started by giving doses to the most vulnerable people, those now being immunized are more likely to already have health problems. Experts say that could make it difficult to determine whether a vaccine shot is responsible.
SO WHY DID THEY STOP VACCINATION?
Any time vaccines are rolled out widely, scientists expect some serious health issues and deaths to be reported — simply because millions of people are receiving the shots and problems would be expected to occur randomly in a group so large. The vast majority of these end up not being connected to the vaccine, but because COVID-19 vaccines are still experimental, scientists must investigate every possibility that the shot could have some unforeseen side effects. The shots are considered experimental because the vaccines were only developed in the last year, so there is no long-term data for any of them.
“People die every day, and we have more than 300 million people globally who have been immunized who will die of other causes,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, an assistant director-general at WHO.
IS THIS A CONCERN WITH OTHER COVID-19 VACCINES?
The EMA is currently examining whether COVID-19 shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca might be causing low levels of blood platelets in some patients, a condition that could lead to bruising and bleeding.
HAS ASTRAZENECA RUN INTO OTHER TROUBLE?
The vaccine has been approved for use in adults in more than 50 countries and has been proven to be safe and effective in research done in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. But there have been concerns raised about how the vaccine data have been released, and some European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have questioned the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Britain first authorized the vaccine based on partial results that suggested the shots were about 70% effective. But those results were clouded by a manufacturing mistake that led some participants to get just a half dose in their first shot — an error the researchers didn’t immediately acknowledge. When it recommended the vaccine be licensed, the EMA estimated the vaccine’s efficacy to be about 60%.
The data on whether the vaccine protected older adults were also incomplete, leading some European countries to initially withhold the shot from older people.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration suspended a study in 30,000 Americans for an unusual six weeks, as frustrated regulators sought information about some possible side effects reported in Britain.
“All the data we have seen about the AstraZeneca vaccine suggests it’s very safe and is saving people from dying of COVID,” said Dr. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia. “But this may be more of a perception problem because every time there is a vaccine issue, we hear the name ‘AstraZeneca’ soon after.”
SO WHAT ARE EXPERTS TELLING PEOPLE TO DO?
The WHO and the EMA — as well as regulators in several countries — say people should continue to be immunized and that the risk of getting vaccinated far outweighs any potential harm.
“The safety of the public will always come first,” said Britain’s drug regulator. “People should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so.”
Credit to AP
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BREAKING: Workers To Earn More As FG Seeks Pay Parity, Says Finance Minister
Contrary to reports by some media, the federal government is not thinking of cutting wages, rather mulling salary harmonisation.
Therefore, the government, according to Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, is seeking more of pay parity. She disclosed at the ongoing ‘National Policy Dialogue on Corruption and Cost of Governance in Nigeria’ organised by the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC) in Abuja on Tuesday that the President had directed the salaries committee to review payroll and also review the number of agencies.
“What government hopes to achieve is to redistribute wages equally across board.
“We still see government expenditure increase to a terrain twice higher than our revenue,” Ahmed said.
The government had approved a N13.88trillion budget with a deficit of over N5.6trillion, and projected a revenue of N7.98trillion to fund part of the 2021 budget.
The Honourable Minister urged that all agencies must come together to trim their costs, given Nigeria’s dwindling revenue. According to her, the government would also remove some unnecessary items from the budget as a move to cut the cost of governance in the country.
She said, “We need to work together, all agencies of the government to cut down our cost. We need to cut down unnecessary expenditures. Expenditures that we can do without. Our budgets are filled year in year out with projects that we see over and over again, and also projects that are not necessary.”
“President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the salaries committee, which I chair, work together with the head of service (HOS) and other members of the committee to review the government pay rolls considering stepping down on cost.”
She revealed that the government would also review the number of government agencies in terms of their mandates. Ahmed disclosed that for agencies with the same mandate, the government would look at merging the two.
The Chairman of ICPC, Mr. Bolaji Owasanoye, noted during the stakeholders meeting, that the cost of governance is the “driver of corruption in Nigeria.” He said that the government had committed to improving the country’s revenue from new and existing sources.
Owasanoye said that the government’s commitment to streamline payroll, removal of subsidies and reduction of the cost of contracts and procurement are all for the benefits of the poor and vulnerable. He also said that a critical area of concern was he called ‘payroll padding’ and the ‘phenomenon of ghost workers.’
The ICPC boss lamented the duplication of projects such as the constituency projects of lawmakers, and noted that funding for such projects was usually released without any mechanism for monitoring and evaluation and reconciliation of the funding. He then cited a project executed by the Redeemed Christian Church of God which was inadvertently diverted as an executive project.
Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi
Special Adviser, Media and Communications
To the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning
5th May, 2021
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