Pending the final decision on the controversial vaccine, Norway has decided to distribute its stock of AstraZeneca to Nordic countries who actually want to use them despite the associated risks.
Norwegians are at a higher risk of dying from being inoculated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine than COVID-19, the National Institute of Public Health (FHI) concluded in its analysis, recommending the vaccine, previously linked to serious complications in the form of rare blood clotting and bleeding amid low platelet counts.
Refraining from the vaccine could prevent up to 10 deaths related to the side effects, FHI said, according to the newspaper Verdens Gang.
So far, Norway has seen five cases of serious accidents reported shortly after vaccination, with three deaths. The FHI has calculated the AstraZeneca vaccine death rate at 2.3 people for every 100,000 vaccinated.
The FHI stressed that continuing to vaccinate will expose younger women to an “unreasonably high risk” given the current relatively levels of infection in Norway.
Furthermore, the institute is against offering the vaccine on a voluntary basis, which has been proposed in both Norway and other Scandinavian countries.
“We believe that such an alternative may appear unethical and with a high risk that those who make such a choice do not fully understand the risk they are exposed to,” the institute said.
The FHI also dared that recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine for further use could lead to less confidence among the population in vaccination programs in general.
“This could lead to a lower vaccination rate and vaccination rate in the long term and that patients in risk groups will also say no to vaccines.”
A recent FHI survey in collaboration with Mindshare and Norstat indicated that 76% of respondents were skeptical of at least one of the vaccines, although 82% were initially positive about being vaccinated. Among vaccines, AstraZeneca achieved the highest level of skepticism at 99%, compared to Moderna (9%) and Pfizer (8%).
However, the government believes it is too early to completely stop the vaccine and is instead launching a new panel of experts to further investigate both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which has raised similar concerns.
Pending a final decision, however, Norway has decided to distribute its stock of AstraZeneca to other Nordic countries who actually wish to use them.
Of the Norwegian shares, Sweden will borrow 200,000, while 16,000 will go to Iceland.
“If you resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get back the doses we lend as soon as we request it. Sweden and Iceland will then resend their first deliveries from AstraZeneca, “Health Minister Bent Høie said, as quoted by Verdens Gang.
The Swedish Public Health Agency carried out a different evaluation of the AstraZeneca vaccine and concluded that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks and side effects.
The agency’s Swedish equivalent, the Swedish Public Health Agency, has, however, made a completely different assessment and believes the vaccine’s benefits far outweigh the risk of side effects.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell described the controversial vaccine as having a “high protective effect” and “reducing the risk of serious illness and death, especially among the elderly and the frail.”
Earlier this spring, dozens of countries temporarily stopped using AstraZeneca shot due to reports of side effects. Of them, many, like Sweden, have since resumed vaccination, citing a situation of precarious infection and a shortage of other vaccines.