Health Experts Push Back Against Growing Decisions To Pause AstraZeneca Vaccinations in Europe
- Several European nations are halting the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine amid concerns over it causing blood clots.
- There is no concrete evidence that links the two, and an extreme minority of patients have had blood clots found post-vaccination.
- Government officials paint the decision to pause vaccinations as a precautionary measure, although health experts, including the E.U.’s top drug regulator and the WHO, agree the vaccine is safe and said the blood clots were detected because of increased monitoring.
- This pause in vaccinations means the E.U. will likely not meet its goal of vaccinating 70 million people by September since AstraZeneca’s is the bloc’s main vaccine.
Cascade Reaction in Europe
A growing list of European nations are facing backlash among health experts after deciding to pause the use and rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid reports that people who took the vaccine found blood clots shortly afterward.
This has led to a cascading effect, as nation after nation has enacted precautionary measures over the vaccine, despite concrete evidence the two issues are linked and instead of people watching their health more closely. Experts note that the first people to get vaccinated are among the most vulnerable and thus are already susceptible to bad health conditions like blood clots.
The decision to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe and other countries is widely considered by health professionals to be premature. Particularly because it’s unclear if it was even at-fault for causing ANY blood clots. When Denmark suspended its use last week (the first nation to do so, its health authority said that as of that moment “it cannot be concluded whether there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”
The evidence currently available points to the AstraZeneca vaccine being as safe as any other, with only a tiny percentage of the population experiencing any adverse effects. When reviewing data from the 17 million doses given, AstraZeneca found 37 instances of blood clots. Those findings were backed by the U.K. (which uses this vaccine for their vaccination efforts), who said that among the 11 million doses of the vaccine given so far, there were only 11 instances of blood clots. those numbers represent figures far less than what you’d expect among the general population. Additionally, neither one could conclusively tie the blood clots to the vaccine.
No Serious Concern For Drug Regulators
The European Medicines Agency, the E.U.’s top drug agency, said on Monday there is “no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions,” and that it will continue to monitor data as it comes in. It added that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh any potential side effects. To date, the only negative health effect noticed in some patients with a plausible link to the AstraZeneca vaccine is low platelets in the blood, which can cause bruising.
The WHO’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, wanted to make sure that any concerns about AstraZeneca’s vaccine aren’t extrapolated to any unrelated and different vaccine from other brands, noting that out of the 300 million doses of coronavirus vaccines given globally, “there is no documented death that has been linked to a COVID vaccine.”
Halting the use of this vaccine of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the one most European countries hoped to use, means that it’s even further behind in meeting its goal of vaccinating 70% of its population by September.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be approved by U.S. regulators, although that’s to be expected as it never sought emergency authorization.
See What Others Are Saying: (Associated Press) (Washington Post) (The New York Times)
U.S. Intel Suggests Pro-Ukraine Group Sabotaged Nord Stream Pipeline
There is no evidence that the culprits behind the attack were acting under the direction of the Ukrainian government.
Europe Braces for Shocking Revelations
A pro-Ukraine group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September, intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests.
The New York Times reported the news Tuesday, citing officials who said there was no evidence of involvement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, any of his top lieutenants, or any government officials.
The strength of the evidence, however, is not clear, and U.S. officials declined to inform The Times on the nature of the intelligence or how it was obtained. They reportedly added that the intelligence indicates neither who the group’s members are nor who funded and directed the operation.
The Times’ sources said they believe the saboteurs were most likely Russian or Ukrainian nationals and that they possibly received specialized government training in the past.
It’s also possible that the group behind the attack was a proxy with covert ties to Kyiv, the report added.
When three of four Nord Stream pipelines were found to be severely damaged last year, the revelation shook markets and sent European gas prices soaring. Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011, and Nord Stream 2, which had been laid down but wasn’t yet operational, supplied Germany and by extension the rest of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas.
Following the explosions, Poland and Ukraine blamed Russia, and Russia blamed Britain. Other observers speculated that Ukraine might be behind it too.
More Ongoing Investigations
Last month, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in a Substack article that the United States military carried out the attack and that President Biden authorized it himself. However, Hersh’s report cited only one anonymous source in support of its central claim, so it was largely dismissed as not credible.
Western governments expressed caution on Wednesday in response to The Times report.
“There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalized before we say anything more about who was behind it,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Russia, by contrast, pounced on the opportunity to renew its demand for inclusion in a proposed international probe into the pipeline explosion.
The Ukrainian government denied any involvement in the Nord Stream explosions.
On Wednesday, multiple German media outlets reported that investigators have largely reconstructed how the attack happened, pinning the blame on six people who allegedly used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland.
German officials reportedly searched a vessel suspected of carrying the explosives in January, but the investigation is ongoing.
The country’s defense minister suggested the explosions may have been a “false flag” attack to smear Ukraine.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
Turkey, Syria Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 41,000 as Survivors Pulled from Rubble
A pair of brothers spent around 200 hours trapped under debris, living off of protein powder and their own urine.
A Humanitarian Crisis Explodes
The number of confirmed dead from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week has surpassed 41,000.
Millions more people have been left stranded without adequate shelter, food, clean water, or medical supplies.
At night, the region has dropped to below-freezing temperatures.
Now health authorities are worried that the lack of sanitation infrastructure, which was damaged by the quakes, will lead to a disease outbreak.
“We haven’t been able to rinse off since the earthquake,” 21-year-old Mohammad Emin, whose home was destroyed, told Reuters.
He was helping out at a clinic serving displaced people in an open-air stadium, but with no showers and only six toilets, the resource shortage was poignant.
“They are offering tetanus shots to residents who request them, and distributing hygiene kits with shampoo, deodorant, pads and wipes,” added Akin Hacioglu, a doctor at the clinic.
The World Health Organization monitors the population for waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, as well as seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
Rescuers Race Against the Clock
After more than a week of searching, hopes that more living victims will be found amid the collapsed buildings are fading, but rescuers continue to pull out the final few survivors.
Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21, and his brother Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, spent about 200 hours under rubble in the city of Kahramanmaras before they were extracted Tuesday. They told reporters they held on by eating protein powder, drinking their own urine, and swallowing gulps of air.
In the same city, teams dug a 16-foot tunnel through debris to rescue a woman, and to the south, a volunteer mining crew joined the efforts to save another.
With no homes to go back to, some survivors have joined the ranks of volunteers themselves.
In the past week, more than 35,000 Turkish search-and-rescue teams worked alongside thousands of international workers in the effort, according to Turkey’s emergency management agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called the earthquakes the “disaster of the century” and said in a statement that at least 13,000 people were being treated in hospitals.
The death toll is expected to rise even further in the coming weeks.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Al Jazeera)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Resigns
“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now,” she said to reporters
Sturgeon Steps Down
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation on Wednesday.
Sturgeon has been Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister and she is also the first woman to ever hold the position. She has been in politics since 1999, leading the charge for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom. Sturgeon also guided the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sturgeon made sure to mention that her decision was not in response to the latest round of political pressure she is facing after her recent controversies regarding gender reform. Rather, her reasons are rooted in her own personal struggle with whether she can continue to do the job well.
“To be clear, I am not expecting violins here. But I am a human being as well as a politician,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday. “My point is this – giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it. The country deserves nothing less. But, in truth, that can only be done by anyone for so long.
“For me, it is now in danger of becoming too long,” Sturgeon continued. “A First Minister is never off-duty. Particularly in this day and age, there is virtually no privacy. Even ordinary stuff that most people take for granted like going for a coffee with friends or going for a walk on your own becomes very difficult.”
Sturgeon’s Political Future
Sturgeon’s approval ratings are reportedly the lowest they’ve been since she’s been in office. Regardless, many political figures in Scotland, as well as the U.K., have applauded her and her historic service as First Minister.
There are still several unknowns moving forward. There is still no confirmation on who will take over the position. However, Sturgeon did say that she will serve until someone else is elected.
The push for Scotland’s independence is hanging in limbo as well, and no one knows what it’ll look like without Sturgeon’s leadership. She did mention, however, that she does not intend to leave politics fully and will still fight for the cause as a lawmaker in Parliament.
Sturgeon said the support for Scottish independence needs to be solidified and grow.
“To achieve that we need to reach across the divide in Scottish politics,” she said. “And my judgment now is that this needs a new leader.”