Norway lends AstraZeneca vaccine jabs to Sweden, Iceland

Health Watch

FILE – In this April 9, 2021 file photo syringes are prepared to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 during a vaccination campaign at WiZink indoor arena in Madrid, Spain. =Countries in the European Union have ramped up the vaccination after sluggish start. The uptick comes as countries across Europe also grapple with a rise in infections that has pushed the EU’s overall number of confirmed cases close to 30 million. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, file)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norway will lend all of its 216,000 doses of AstraZeneca to neighboring Sweden and Iceland as long as its own government regulator has paused the use of the vaccine.

On March 11, Norway followed Denmark in deciding to put on hold jabs by the British-Swedish company after reports of very rare blood clots.

Health Minister Bent Hoeie said if the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is resumed, “we will get back the doses we lend as soon as we request it.”

The European Medicines Agency has said the benefits of being immunized against COVID-19 outweigh the very rare risks of developing the unusual clots with AstraZeneca.

Hoie also said if the vaccine is taken out of the coronavirus vaccination program in non-European Union-member Norway, “the doses we have been given can be donated to other countries in collaboration with the EU.”

Hoeie said Sweden will borrow 200,000 doses and Iceland 16,000 doses. The Norwegian doses expire in June and July.

The Danes, who were the first to pull suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, have not yet decided what will happen with their doses.

Although the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has called for removing the AstraZeneca vaccine from Norway’s vaccination program, the government in Norway this month decided to wait, saying it “believes that we do not have a good enough basis for drawing a final conclusion.”

Hoeie reiterated that experts in Norway would gauge the use of the AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before May 10. Both vaccines are made with the same technology.

Norway started its vaccinations on Dec. 27 and 1.1 million people — out of a population of 5.3 million — have so far been vaccinated. Norway uses the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

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