Sweden to restart AstraZeneca vaccinations for over-65s

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It comes after a small number reports of serious blood clots in people who had recently received the jab.

“The vaccine will bring extremely good effect among the elderly, many of whom are getting sick with Covid-19 every day,” the agency’s director Johan Carlson said in a press release. “At the same time we have not seen any risk of these rare and serious side effects among the elderly.” 

After the European Medicines Agency last Thursday concluded its preliminary review into the safety of the vaccine, judging that the benefits continued to outweigh the risks, most countries in Europe resumed their use of the vaccine. The agency said a causal link between the vaccine and clotting was not proven, but that it was possible this was the case.

But Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and Finland each opted to keep the suspension in place while they carried out further analysis of both the EMA’s findings and cases in their own countries. 

Sweden’s decision came shortly after decisions from its neighbours Denmark and Finland, with Finland opting on Wednesday to resume use of vaccine, also only for those over the age of 65, and Denmark on Thursday morning opting to extend the suspension of the vaccine a further three weeks. Norway is set to announce its decision on Friday. 

The Swedish Medical Products Agency on Wednesday published a statement reiterating its judgement that “the benefits outweigh the risks” when using the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite “a possible association with very rare cases of blood clots and low platelet levels.” 

Health workers in Sweden, it said, “should be aware of signs and symptoms consistent with thromboembolism and/or thrombocytopenia”.

They should seek medical attention immediately if they experience “difficulty breathing, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain”, and also if they experience “persistent headaches or blurred vision”, or bruising or petechia (small red spots) on areas other than the vaccination area.”  

Sweden is currently in the second phase of its vaccination programme, meaning the vaccine is offered to people aged over 65 (the oldest first), people in certain risk groups including transplant recipents, and healthcare staff working in close contact with people in these categories.

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