WHO assessing AstraZeneca vaccine
Germany, Italy, France and Spain today joined a growing list of countries that have suspended the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns around side effects.
Norway stopped giving the shot last week after reporting cases of blood clots. This was followed by temporary suspensions of use of the vaccine in the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Bulgaria, Iceland and Thailand.
However the vaccine’s manufacturer has insisted its jab is safe and the UK’s medicines regulator has said the available evidence “does not suggest the vaccine is the cause” of clots.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also came to the defence of the Oxford vaccine and said he would take either approved Covid jab offered to him when it came time to get his inoculation.
A No10 spokesperson said today: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective, and we urge anybody asked to come forward to receive a vaccine to do so.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to complete a safety review of issues relating to the jab later this week, but today reiterated that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential side effects.
A statement from the EMA said: “Events involving blood clots, some with unusual features such as low numbers of platelets, have occurred in a very small number of people who received the vaccine.
“Many thousands of people develop blood clots annually in the EU for different reasons.
“The number of thromboembolic events overall in vaccinated people seems not to be higher than that seen in the general population.”
Good morning and welcome to the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 07:42
Public urged to get coronavirus vaccine despite more countries suspending use of AstraZeneca jab
People across the UK have been urged to get their coronavirus vaccine, despite a growing list of countries temporarily suspending use of the AstraZeneca jab amid concern around blood clots.
The vaccine’s manufacturer has insisted it is safe, saying a review of available data of more than 17 million people who have been vaccinated across the UK and EU has shown no evidence of an increased risk.
After Ireland announced on Sunday that it was suspending use of the jabs as a “precautionary step”, the UK’s medicines regulator said the available evidence “does not suggest the vaccine is the cause” of clots.
The Netherlands also said on Sunday that it was suspending use of the vaccinations as a precaution for two weeks, and several other European countries have already temporarily suspended use of the jabs.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 07:52
Netherlands suspends use of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine over blood clotting concerns
The Netherlands has suspended the use of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca-University of Oxford over blood clotting concerns even as the pharmaceutical company claims that review of safety data of people vaccinated so far has shown no evidence of it.
With this, Netherlands has joined several other nations, including Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Bulgaria and Iceland and Thailand who have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 08:14
No link between vaccine and blood clots, Oxford vaccine group director says
No link has been found between the coronavirus vaccine and blood clots, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, which developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, said.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “important to understand that a lot of stuff happens to people all the time in normal times and, in the case of blood clots here in the UK, we see about 3,000 cases of blood clots happening every month.
“So, when you then put a vaccination campaign on top of that, clearly those blood clots still happen and you’ve got to then try and separate out whether, when they occur, they are at all related to the vaccine or not.”
He said more than 11 million doses had now been given in the UK and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had said “very clearly that they’re not seeing any increase in the number of cases of blood clots” over what they would see normally.
Finland has also done a “very careful study” and have not found an increased risk, he added. “I think at this moment we’ve got the most data from the UK, which looks very reassuring, but of course it’s absolutely right that there’s careful monitoring of safety and this gets looked into.”
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 08:28
Turkey says ‘no vaccines necessary’ for British holidaymakers
Turkey expects to welcome visitors this summer without requiring evidence of vaccination, the tourism minister has said, with British travellers unlikely to need to take PCR tests before arrival.
Our travel correspondent, Simon Calder, reports:
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 08:43
‘No demonstrable difference’ in number of blood clots in general population compared to those who have received AstraZeneca jab
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said there was “no demonstrable difference” in the number of blood clots seen between the general population and the 11 million who have so far received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to date.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Safety is absolutely paramount and we monitor this data very carefully.
“We have given 11 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to date and there’s no demonstrable difference between the blood clots in those that have been vaccinated from those in the general population.
“We have to remember that there are 3,000 blood clots a month on average in the general population and because we’re immunising so many people, we are bound to see blood clots at the same time as the vaccination, and that’s not because they are due to the vaccination. That’s because they occur naturally in the population.
“One ought to also remember that Covid causes blood clots. So, the risks of not having the Covid vaccination far outweigh the risks from the vaccinations.”
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 09:00
Pre-Covid levels of office working unlikely to return, Bank of England governor says
Pre-Covid levels of office working are unlikely to return, and most workers will adopt a hybrid approach to their jobs when restrictions ease, the governor of the Bank of England has said.
Andrew Bailey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we will see things change, because I think some habits and some practices will prove to be sustainable.
“I think there will be for many people more of a hybrid model of working at home and working in a place of work.
“I think we’ve already seen the retailing industry change quite dramatically in the last year and although I would expect some of it to change back it, it won’t entirely change back.
“I would be very surprised if we went back to exactly as we were before Covid.”
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 09:17
No evidence of increased blood clot risk linked to AstraZeneca jab in UK, says head of Oxford vaccine group
Evidence from the UK suggests there is not an increased risk of blood clots in recipients of the AstraZeneca Covid jab, the head of Oxford University’s vaccine group has said.
Speaking after more than a dozen countries around the world said they would at least partially suspend rollout of vaccines produced by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, Andrew Pollard said the data did not point to a causal link between the jab and coagulation disorders.
My colleague Tom Batchelor has the full story:
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 09:36
All over-50s to be vaccinated in next few weeks
All over-50s will be vaccinated within the next few weeks, according to Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
He told BBC Breakfast: “In primary care, we’re still vaccinating cohort six – all with underlying illness – and some of seven.
“But, throughout the country, we’re going down to cohort nine.
“Most people over the age of 50 will be vaccinated really within the next few weeks – so it is tremendously successful.
“Those first nine priority groups included 99 per cent of all hospitalisations and deaths, certainly in wave one of the pandemic, so we’re feeling very optimistic.
“We’re seeing a very sharp reduction in the deaths and hospitalisations throughout the country.”
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 09:51
Covid vaccine hesitancy delays US House reopening as 25% of representatives are yet to take jabs
Even as the US president, Joe Biden, is trying to urge every American to get vaccinated against Covid-19, it has emerged that one in four members of the House of Representatives is yet to be inoculated, Akshita Jain reports.
All members of Congress were offered access to the vaccine back in December, a decision that the White Houses’s National Security Council said was taken “to meet long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations”.
Last week however, during a debate on the full reopening of the House, it was revealed that only about 75 per cent of representatives have either taken up the offer or declared that they have received a vaccine through another provider.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 10:14
Over 150 arrested in Miami over spring break weekend for Covid breaches
Over 150 people were arrested for breaching Covid restrictions to mark the spring break weekend in Miami, causing confrontations that injured two officers.
Officers from the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) arrested as many as 120 people on Friday, Local News 10 reported, and used pepper spray to disperse crowds.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 10:34
‘Huge risks’ if UK emerges from lockdown without vaccinations
There are “huge risks” from Covid and “if we have no vaccination and we come out of lockdown in this country, we will expect tens of thousands of more deaths to occur during this year”, Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, has said.
He added: “A number of countries around Europe are now seeing an increase in cases again.
“Italy and France and Germany and Poland – all have the start of a new surge in cases.
“It’s absolutely critical that we don’t have a problem of not vaccinating people and have the balance of a huge risk – a known risk of Covid – against what appears so far from the data that we’ve got from the regulators – no signal of a problem.”
He added there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe been given so far”.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 11:00
NHS staff who refuse Covid vaccine could be redeployed to ‘less exposure-prone setting’
Hospitals can consider redeploying staff who have refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine, a new NHS document suggests.
In the material, NHS England sets out how employers could consider moving workers who have declined the vaccine to a “less exposure-prone setting”.
The document sets out steps on how employers can ensure their staff who have declined the offer of the vaccine are safe at work.
Measures include making sure they have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they have had a mask fitting, if they need to use certain respirator masks.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 11:28
Portugal extends ban on flights from Britain
Portugal has extended a ban on flights to and from Britain for another two weeks.
Direct commercial or private flights between the countries have been banned since January to limit the spread of coronavirus variants.
As of 7 March, passengers flying indirectly to Portugal from Britain have also had to present a negative Covid-19 test and quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
Portugal has also extended its ban on flights to and from Brazil.
Samuel Osborne15 March 2021 11:47
Danish woman died from ‘highly unusual’ blood clot symptoms after AstraZeneca vaccine, agency says
A Danish woman who died shortly after receiving the AstraZenecaCovid vaccine had “highly unusual” symptoms, the country’s medicine agency has said.
The 60-year-old patient had a low number of blood platelets and clots in small and large vessels, as well as bleeding.
Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:01
Customers ‘relieved’ as hairdressers reopen in Wales
Hairdressers and barbers threw open their doors today in Wales as the country took its first steps out of lockdown.
Customers at Sleep When You’re Dead barbers in Cardiff, South Wales, said they felt “relieved” and “refreshed” after having their hair cut professionally for the first time in 2021.
David Saunders, 38, who runs a healthcare clinic, said: “I’m just relieved. I was going a little stir crazy.
“My wife says having a haircut is really important to how I am around the house, and with family and work. When my hair is a mess, I feel as if I’m appearing as a mess. I think the health aspect and psychology is really underestimated.”
Dan Thain, 36, who own a fire and security business, said: “I feel refreshed, a bit more normal and ready to go again. It’s like we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Additional reporting from PA
Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:17
Do we need to pay back Covid debt?
Trillions has been spent by governments globally as the spread of coronavirus led to numerous lockdowns and economies juddered to a halt.
Additional funds had to be found to keep people afloat and stop businesses going bust. While huge investments had to be made into vaccine development and health services.
The Independent’s economics editor Ben Chu explains just what we are going to do with all the Covid debt.
Governments have borrowed trillions of dollars, pounds and euros to fight the coronavirus pandemic. That money has been used to pay people’s wages during furlough, paid for grants to keep businesses afloat, pumped extra money into health services, and so on. But as we reach the end of the coronavirus crisis, we are going to pay that back, aren’t we? The Independent’s Economics Editor, Ben Chu, explains what we are going to do with all the coronavirus debt.
Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:40
Students in Wales set for campus return on April 12
All students studying at universities in Wales will be able to return to campus from April 12, the country’s education minister has said.
Kirsty Williams told a press conference in Cardiff: “From April 12, it is our expectation that all students can return for blended learning for the duration of the summer term.
“Universities have planned for more teaching and learning to continue in the summer term than is usually normal in the academic cycle.”
Students will be offered coronavirus tests before returning to university, with twice-weekly lateral flow testing available for all students and staff who cannot regularly work from home.
Joe Middleton15 March 2021 12:56
Italy enters fresh lockdown, shutting shops and schools
Italy has plunged into a fresh Covid-19 lockdown today after a surge in cases.
Half of the country’s regions are facing fresh restrictions in a bid to suppress the latest spike in Covid infections that have left hospitals struggling to cope with a surge in new admissions.
Joe Middleton15 March 2021 13:13
Boris Johnson backs ‘safe’ and ‘effective’ Oxford jab
Downing Street has sought to reassure people about the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after multiple countries have suspended use of the jab due to potential side effects.
A No10 spokesman said today: “The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective, and we urge anybody asked to come forward to receive a vaccine to do so.”
There was “no evidence” that blood clots are any more likely to occur following vaccination, the spokesman said.
Joe Middleton15 March 2021 13:33