Canada, Germany Have Restricted AstraZeneca Use

The AstraZeneca vaccine’s star continues to fall as countries this week placed fresh restrictions on its use due to cases of blood clotting. On Monday, Canada announced it would not use the AZ jab for those under the age of 55. Germany came to the same conclusion on Tuesday, but set the cut-off age at 60.

Meanwhile, Norway has suspended the roll-out of the AZ vaccine since 11 March while regulators assess the risks. This week the suspension was extended until at least 15 April.

Based on epidemiological data, the AZ vaccine is suspected to increase the risk of a very rare but extremely dangerous condition, cerebral vein thrombosis. Germany counted seven cases among recently vaccinated people in a single fortnight, when the average rate per fortnight is roughly one.

And of course, the data is still coming. While initial estimates were that the AZ vaccine may raise the likelihood of the disease to four per million, Norwegian regulators suspect the rate may be above 42 per million.

The risk of the disease is higher among women of child-bearing age, and higher again among women taking the contraceptive pill. Yet younger women are at relatively low risk for Covid-19. 

In Ontario, as an example, the risk of death for women 40-49 years of age over the past year has been 20 per million. That’s half the rate of thrombosis events post-AZ vaccine.

This is, of course, not evidence against getting vaccinated, but against the AZ vaccine specifically. The AZ vaccine has already proven “minimally effective” against the South African coronavirus variant, which reached hotel quarantine in Canberra earlier this month.

Health Minister Greg Hunt is the face of a lacklustre vaccine roll-out.

On first look, it is difficult to see how the Australian government could justify not following the same course. Unfortunately, despite touting that it would take its due time and consideration, the government committed to the AstraZeneca vaccine back in November, before full trial results had been released. 

Having done so, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has consistently sought to play down the mounting, legitimate concerns over AZ’s vaccine. We’ll see how they respond – or if they respond at all – to this freshest round of issues.

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