FEARS of a link between the Oxford / Astra-Zeneca vaccine and blood clots has seen more EU countries suspend it’s rollout.
The Netherlands today became the fifth country to suspend the jab following Ireland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway.
Meanwhile other countries, including Austria and Italy, have black-listed a particular batch of the jab over concern the Astra-Zeneca jab could lead to higher incidents of potentially lethal bloodclots.
The evidence for such a reaction appears to be patchy and research in the UK suggests the vaccine has no impact on the liklihood of developing a bloodclot compared with not taking it.
The World Health Organisation also reiterated its guidance that the Oxford / Astra-Zeneca vaccine is safe and the risks of not being vaccinated against Covid-19 far outweigh the risks of getting a jab.
The suspensions add yet another layer of chaos to the EU’s bungled vaccine rollout, which ranges from a shambolic jab procurement scheme to leaders such a French president Emmanuel Macron engaging in disinformation.
The UK jab rollout is set to increase in coming days thanks to renewed supplies and a staggering 36% of the population already vaccinated – all signs of a bright summer ahead and an early end to lockdown.
But on the continent vaccine take-up is so painfully low that cases are once again spiking, with Italy today being forced back into a new national lockdown to prevent hospitals being overrun and France having to run special covid planes to evacuate patients from an overwhelmed Paris.
Meanwhile in Germany Angela Merkel’s CDU party was hammered in two state elections as the public lost faith in the country’s Covid response.
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TWO VACCINE DOSES OFFER SIMILAR COVID-19 PROTECTION AS PRIOR INFECTION
New research suggests two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offer similar protection against coronavirus as natural immunity after infection.
None of the 1,456 healthcare workers at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust who had received two vaccines had a symptomatic infection when followed up more than 14 days after their second vaccination.
The study saw the same high level of protection in unvaccinated healthcare workers who had contracted Covid-19 naturally.
They had 98% fewer symptomatic infections than unvaccinated individuals who had not been infected before, researchers say.
Most of the healthcare workers in the study had only received one vaccine to date.
LOCKDOWN PET BOOM DRIVEN BY MILLENIALS AND GEN Z
More than three million Brit households have got pets since the start of the pandemic – largely driven by Millennials and Gen Z.
Almost two-thirds of the new pooches and moggies were bought by people aged between 16 and 34.
Young people have been looking for pets to keep them company during the various lockdowns.
Research carried out by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association found a whopping 74 per cent claim their new pet has helped their mental health during the pandemic.
OXFORD PROFESSOR SEEKS TO REASSURE PUBLIC OVER ASTRAZENECA COVID VACCINE
The head of the Oxford University vaccine group has sought to reassure the public over its Covid-19 jab.
Professor Andrew Pollard said that while it was right that regulators investigate reports of blood clots in people who have had the vaccine, data from millions of people was “very reassuring” that there was no link.
It comes after the Netherlands became the latest country to suspend use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about possible side-effects.
Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Iceland and Thailand have all also temporarily suspended their use of the AstraZeneca jab.
The Dutch government said the precautionary move will last until at least March 29, following a similar decision made by the Republic of Ireland.
NHS STAFF WHO REFUSE JABS COULD BE REDEPLOYED
According to a new NHS document, hospitals can consider redeploying staff who have refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
The material has NHS England outlining that 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.
NHS workers should also have awareness of infection control and undertaken the appropriate training, and that they have an up-to-date risk assessment.
TURKEY PLANS TO WELCOME UNVACCINATED UK HOLIDAYMAKERS
UK holidaymakers could be heading to Turkey this summer, without requiring proof of a coronavirus vaccine or negative test.
Tourism minister Mehmet Ersoy said the country is “looking forward to welcoming British tourists with open arms”.
British nationals made more than 2.5 million visits to Turkey in 2019, according to Government figures.
Mr Ersoy said: “We have world-class border processes in place for ensuring travel will be low-risk throughout Turkey.
“We are working with the British authorities to ensure these necessary processes are world class and as up to date as possible.”
ROGER DALTREY: I’M GRATEFUL TO HAVE RECEIVED MY CORONAVIRUS JAB
The Who star Roger Daltrey has said he is “grateful” to have received his coronavirus jab.
The singer, 77, who is also patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust, had the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I haven’t had blood clots and I haven’t got horns growing out of my head. I’m really grateful,” he told Good Morning Britain.
EU CONSIDERS TURNING TO SPUTNIK VACCINE
The EU is reportedly in discussions to place an order of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine.
According to reports from City A.M., the bloc is considering a move to Moscow’s Sputnik V vaccine as it attempts to speed up its lagging immunisation programme.
The news comes as several countries pause their roll out of Astrazeneca’s Covid jab, over a handful of health concerns.
The EU has approved four vaccines so far – the Astrazeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs.
However, the bloc’s vaccination programme has been slowed by production glitches and manufacturing scale-ups.
SPIKE IN CASES EXPECTED AS UNIVERSITY STUDENTS RETURN TO CAMPUS
Scientists have warned of a spike in Covid-19 cases as university students return to campus.
Undergraduates were allowed to head back to continue their degrees from last Monday.
However, researchers have said little can be done to avoid the inevitable boom in coronavirus cases.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge and the University of Warwick modelled data from four scenarios, including a staggered return, and found that in all cases the same amount of people were likely to contract Covid-19 over the term.
Measures only saw the inevitable spike delayed, researchers said.
Speaking via videoconference in Geneva, Ghebreyesus said “WHO is aware that some countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines based on reports of blood clots in some people who have received doses of the vaccine from two batches.
“This measure was taken as a precaution while a full investigation is finalised.
“It’s important to note that the European Medicines Agency has said there is no indication of a link between the vaccine and blood clots and that the vaccine can continue to be used while its investigation is ongoing.”
WHO ISSUES STATEMENT ON ASTRAZENECA VACCINE
The World Health Organisation has issued a statement on the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, after several countries suspend the jabs.
Ireland, Norway and Thailand are among a handful of countries who have paused the roll-out of the vaccine, following a small number of reported health problems linked to its use.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said: “As countries roll out Covid-19 vaccines, WHO is continuing to keep a close eye on their safety.”
SIR KEIR STARMER RECEIVES JAB
Sir Keir Starmer received his Covid jab yesterday and urged Brits to get their dose.
He popped in to London’s Francis Crick Institute in his Holborn and St Pancras constituency.
It is one of five mass vaccination centres set up by University College London Hospital.
Sir Keir said: “I am so grateful to the staff and volunteers at the Francis Crick Institute for their warm welcome and exceptional work throughout the pandemic.
‘GET THE JAB,’ MEDICS URGE
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 in 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.
VARIANT CAUSES WORST-EVER DEATH TOLL IN BRAZIL
Things are starting to look much brighter in the UK.
But in some countries, the situation is getting worse rather than better.
Brazil reported 2,216 Covid deaths in the past 24 hours – the third day in a row that fatalities exceeded 2,000.
That means the country is experiencing the worst run of deaths since the pandemic began a year ago.
The health ministry also reported 85,663 new coronavirus infections, its second highest number for a single day.
The pandemic is surging in the South American country, driven by a highly contagious new local variant.
BRITS WILL BE ABLE TO ENJOY SUMMER, SAYS PROFESSOR LOCKDOWN
Professor Lockdown has said he is “80 per cent sure” that Brits will be able to enjoy this summer as the vaccine rollout beats back Covid.
Neil Ferguson, one of the scientists who spearheaded the UK’s lockdown policies, believes most restrictions will be lifted as around one third of population have already had their Covid jab.
Prof Ferguson was speaking on the first anniversary of his grim warning that Covid rates in the UK were much higher than original estimations.
“It is highly likely that we will have driven Covid down to very low levels of case numbers, and we can begin enjoying summer,” he said.
VIRTUAL COMMONS PARTICIPATION SHOULD END WITH COVID RESTRICTIONS, MPS SAY
Virtual participation in Commons debates should cease as the final coronavirus restrictions come to an end, the Procedure Committee has recommended.
The cross-party group of MPs said the temporary “hybrid” proceedings should be extended until stage four of the Government’s roadmap for easing restrictions, which is earmarked for June 21.
But in a report, they said the House should ultimately revert to “all aspects of its pre-pandemic practice and procedure” after that point.
The MPs did, however, recommend that officials are given the scope to further develop the hybrid proceedings allowing virtual and in-person participation in case it is needed in the future, such as during the Palace of Westminster’s restoration works.
Committee chair Karen Bradley MP said: “The Government has set out a cautious and steady easing of lockdown restrictions, and the House of Commons Commission has set out a similar roadmap for the House at an administrative level. This committee’s recommendations for a return to something approaching ‘normality’ are consistent with both the commission and the Government, but the ultimate decision must be made by all MPs.”
WHATSONSTAGE AWARDS HONOURS 21 ‘ANGELS’ FOR THEIR WORK DURING THE PANDEMIC
The WhatsOnStage Awards have honoured 21 people for their contribution to the theatre industry and society as a whole during the coronavirus pandemic.
The recipients, dubbed “angels”, were honoured during the 21st annual edition of the theatre awards night.
Among those to be given awards were Elaine and Graeme Blackmore, who hosted a free community online stand-up event titled Whole Lotta Comedy to provide entertainment during the pandemic.
Leontine Hass was also recognised for helping performing arts students by providing online lessons and industry events to keep them engaged with theatre during the pandemic.
Alex Young was honoured at the ceremony for setting up the Corona Day Plays Theatre Company to offer people the opportunity to read scripts together online.
GOVERNMENT MUST ACT URGENTLY AND SET OUT PLANS FOR EXAMS NEXT YEAR, SAYS LABOUR
Ministers must urgently put in place a plan for next year’s GCSE, A-level and vocational qualification exams, Labour has urged.
Shadow schools minister Wes Streeting called for the Government to guarantee there would be a “level playing field” for pupils who have missed the most learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He will use a Westminster Hall debate on Monday to urge ministers not to repeat mistakes made this year.
Mr Streeting said: “The Government’s poor planning and preparation has created a second year of exam chaos. Ministers urgently need to set out plans for next year giving teachers and pupils time to prepare and adjust their teaching.
“Exams remain the fairest and most robust way to assess pupils, but ministers must guarantee a level playing field for pupils who have missed most learning this year.”
BRAZIL REGISTERS 1,127 NEW COVID-19 DEATHS
Brazil reported 1,127 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours and 43,812 new cases of the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said on Sunday, ending the most lethal week since the pandemic began a year ago.
The South American country is fighting a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by a new, more contagious local variant of the virus that has overwhelmed intensive care wards in most large cities.
The week saw 12,818 deaths in Brazil from COVID-19, an average of 1,831 fatalities a day. That was far above the 1,000-death daily rolling averages for January and February and points to the gravity of the resurgence.
Brazil has now registered 11,483,370 cases in all, while the official death toll has risen to 278,229, according to ministry data, in the world’s deadliest and most widespread outbreak after the United States.
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