Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) Director Geir Bukholm said in an April 15 statement: "There is now significantly more knowledge about the connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the rare and serious incidents of low platelets, blood clots and bleeding," he remarked. Bukholm added that "based on this knowledge, we have arrived at a recommendation that the AstraZeneca vaccine be removed from the coronary vaccination program in Norway."
The Scandinavian country suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout after some people who received the shot experienced blood clots and a reduced platelet count. "Since there are few … who die from COVID-19 in Norway, the risk of dying after vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine would be higher than the risk of dying from the disease, particularly for younger people," Bukholm remarked.
Researchers from the Oslo University Hospital conducted an investigation into the instances of adverse reactions that happened in the country, which involved healthcare workers under the age of 50. The hospital's chief physician Dr. Pål André Holme told Norwegian newspaper VG that he is confident that his team identified antibodies responsible for the blood clots – which the vaccine triggered.
"Our theory is that this is a strong immune response that most likely comes after the vaccine. There is no other thing than the vaccine that can explain this immune response. I'm pretty sure it's the antibodies that's the cause [of the clotting]," Holme said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the British pharmaceutical firm told The Epoch Times that it is up to individual countries "to decide based on local conditions" if the COVID-19 vaccine will be used. They added: "We will continue to collaborate with … regulators and local authorities in order to provide all available data to inform their decisions."
Norway appeared to follow its Scandinavian neighbor Denmark in permanently suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Danish health authorities imposed a total ban on the vaccine on April 15. Danish Health Authority (SST) Director-General Søren Brostrøm said in a statement: "Overall, we must say that … there is a real and serious side effect signal in the vaccine from AstraZeneca. Based on an overall consideration, we have therefore chosen to continue the vaccination program for all target groups without this vaccine." (Related: Denmark permanently bans Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca over deadly blood clots.)
However, Brostrøm clarified that the decision to drop the vaccine should solely be seen in a Danish context. "I understand very well why other countries will use it," he remarked. Copenhagen first suspended the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine in March after two people suffered from severe blood clots following inoculation with the shot.
According to the SST director, joint studies based on Danish and Norwegian health data estimate that one in 40,000 people immunized with the AstraZeneca vaccine is at risk for this side effect – regardless of age and gender. Brostrøm continued: "In the midst of an epidemic, it has been a really difficult decision to continue our vaccination program without an effective and readily available vaccine against COVID-19. However, we have other vaccines at our disposal."
Nevertheless, health authorities have insisted the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is safe to use. (Related: 20+ countries suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine, but regulators insist 'benefits outweigh risks'.)
European Medicines Agency (EMA) Director Emer Cooke previously defended the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying that "there is no indication that vaccination has caused these [serious] conditions." She added: "A situation like this is not unexpected when you vaccinate millions of people." World Health Organization (WHO) officials also shared the EMA director's sentiments.
During a March 15 press conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the global health body is reviewing available safety data. He added that the adverse reactions linked to AstraZeneca's vaccine "shows that the [vaccine] surveillance system works and effective controls are in place. WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan remarked in the same press conference that it is best for countries to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine.