The risk appears small but potentially higher for younger age groups. News of the possible side effect has dealt a blow to the globe’s vaccination hopes.
For wealthier countries with other options, the news is a setback but no catastrophe.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told CNN Wednesday that the US does not need AstraZeneca’s doses.
“We have three excellent vaccines. Even if the FDA deems that this vaccine is a very good vaccine, we don’t need yet again another very good vaccine. We have enough very good vaccines,” he said.
UK authorities struck a similarly confident note after they changed the country’s guidance to recommend that people under 30 take alternative vaccines. Officials said the move was a “course correction” that would not derail the country’s rapid inoculation program.
But for developing nations, especially those with younger populations, the consequences could be much more severe.
AstraZeneca has pledged to supply its vaccine at no profit during the pandemic, and partnered with the Serum Institute of India, which agreed to produce more than 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries.
The drug giant has provided over 30 million doses to more than 58 countries through COVAX, a vaccine-sharing scheme. Many of these nations are heavily dependent on AstraZeneca and cannot afford more costly Covid-19 shots.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that it was “plausible” there was a link between the vaccine and the rare cases of blood clots. WHO stressed that while “concerning, the events under assessment are very rare, with low numbers reported among the almost 200 million individuals” who have received the vaccine worldwide.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q. Is it safe to take the AstraZeneca vaccine?
But the clotting is very rare — EMA officials said they looked at 18 deaths in their analysis of cases reported in a number of European countries. These fatalities were reported in 62 cases of clotting in the sinuses that drain blood from the brain, and 24 cases of clotting in the abdomen.
EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke told a news conference Wednesday that said there was no clear risk profile found when the safety committee looked at the age and sex of people reporting these rare adverse reactions.
But the UK presented data showing that as the age group gets younger, the chances of serious illness or death from Covid-19 lessens, meaning the margin between the benefits and the risks narrows in some scenarios. This is what prompted the UK to recommend that people under 30 be given alternative vaccines.
And a statement published by EMA earlier made clear most of the cases reported “occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination.”
It’s important to note that overall, the EMA and multiple other health agencies believe the benefits of the shot continue to outweigh its risks.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Bolsonaro shrugs off criticism he is ‘genocidal’ as Brazil spins further into crisis
On Wednesday Brazil recorded more than 3,800 new fatalities in 24 hours. That comes a day after the nation recorded its deadliest 24 hours of the pandemic so far, with 4,195 Covid-19 deaths tallied on Tuesday.
Bolsonaro brushed off claims he was to blame.
“They called me homophobic, racist, fascist, a torturer and now…what is it now? Now I am…someone who kills a lot of people? Genocidal. Now, I’m genocidal,” he said to supporters outside the Presidential Palace in Brasilia on Tuesday evening, according to a video posted on YouTube.
He then appeared to imply that the pandemic was an invention of the media that could be solved by providing organizations with government subsidies.
The devastating death toll of US health workers
The project reveals deep inequities tied to race, ethnicity and economic status in America’s health care workforce. It found that 70% of deceased health care workers, for whom researchers have data, identified as people of color.
More than a third of those who died were born outside the US, with workers from the Philippines accounting for a disproportionate number of deaths.
Lower-paid workers who handled everyday patient care, including nurses, support staff and nursing home employees, were also far more likely to die in the pandemic than physicians were.
More than 100 journalists contributed to the project to record every death and memorialize those who died.
UK variant is now the dominant Covid-19 strain in the US, says CDC chief
The agency said there were 16,275 confirmed cases of the variant in the country.
Studies have suggested that the UK variant is more contagious than the original strain, is possibly more dangerous and associated with a higher risk of death.
The US’ daily rate of new cases has risen over most of the last month. Part of that is due to the spread of B.1.1.7 and other concerning variants, Walensky said earlier this week.
ON OUR RADAR
- More than 171 million doses of Covid-19 have been administered in the US, according to data published Wednesday by the CDC. That’s about 2.9 million more shots reported administered since Tuesday.
- India’s second wave of coronavirus infections is tearing through its Bollywood film industry, with multiple stars testing positive.
- Turkey reported at least 276 new deaths over the 24 hours, the highest number of fatalities in one day since the start of the pandemic, according to health ministry data released Wednesday.
- Millions of counterfeit masks have been seized by US Customers and Border Protection (CBP) officials since the start of the pandemic. The last few months have seen an “exponential increase” in counterfeit mask seizures, a CBP official says.
- A man in the Philippines has died after being forced to do 300 squats for breaching Covid curfew.
TODAY’S TOP TIPS
For unvaccinated people who want to visit unvaccinated extended family, virtual gatherings are still best.
However, fully vaccinated grandparents can visit one household of unvaccinated children and grandchildren at a time, indoors and unmasked, if none of them are at high risk of severe disease.
Grandparents who want to see unvaccinated grandchildren from different households “should see the grandchildren separately or do it all outdoors” to mitigate risk, said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
“They should not be mixing them indoors.”
If you’re unvaccinated and choose to visit unvaccinated family, everyone should be outdoors, wearing masks and staying at least 6 feet away from one another.
“We paused in a way that also allowed us to enjoy what’s around us more.” — Elizabeth Derryberry, associate professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
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