Sunday, September 26, 2021

Australia has been a big user of AstraZeneca vaccine so has a lot of data on it and the data shows that blood-clotting is rare

The mortality rate from a rare blood-clotting disorder linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is nearly a fifth of what experts originally thought it could be.

Earlier this year, as data emerged from overseas about the disorder — called TTS for short — it was estimated that the chance of dying if you developed a clot was about 25 per cent.

In Australia, 11.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — now called Vaxzevria — have been administered, with a total of 141 people developing a confirmed or probable case of TTS linked to the jab.

Out of those 141 cases, eight people have died of the clots, or around 5.6 per cent.

In the UK, the rate of dying from TTS was 17 per cent. However, research published in August showed in one study it was as high as 22 per cent.

So, how has Australia kept its rate so low?

The head of the national medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), John Skerritt, thinks it is a combination of a few things.

First, we were given a heads-up by what was happening in the UK and Europe. "They'd vaccinated more than 10 million people before we had started to see possible cases," Professor Skerritt said. "Our doctors were able to pick up on the signs and symptoms and treat early. "We also have been able to pick up more less mild cases."

Professor Huyen Tran, a haematologist at Monash University, agreed having information from other countries early on made a big difference.

"I think initially following what we were seeing in Europe I was expecting a higher fatality rate, but I think I'd caveat that by saying they had a much longer run-in," he said.

"So that awareness, that understanding, is difficult early on, so we had that luxury of learning from other places."

Having a national hospital system that has not been completely overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases has also been crucial, allowing people who need treatment to access it quickly.

At the time of writing, 121 people have been discharged from hospital after being treated for TTS, 12 are still currently receiving treatment, but none are in ICU.

Both professors reiterated that the likelihood of even developing a clot is extremely rare and the benefits of protection from COVID-19, and its potentially long-lasting impacts, for most people, outweigh the risk of TTS.

Media coverage raised awareness

Professor Skerritt pointed out the extensive coverage of the rare clotting disorder early on may have played a role in reducing the fatality rate too.

"We are talking about something that is still extremely rare," he said. "The chance of death after a COVID vaccine in general is still well less than one in a million and there are things like being hit by lightning which are more common than that.

"With the media [coverage], it had the negative effect of causing vaccine hesitancy, but it also had the positive effect of making sure that our doctors and people and individuals were aware of the potential side effects.

"So, they'd go and see their doctors and hospitals early if they had, say, a really bad headache after getting the vaccine."

Professor Tran also believes the heightened awareness of symptoms has played a role in the successful treatment of clots in younger people, which tend to be more severe.

"I can think of an immediate example. The youngest individual that I've been involved with is actually a 22-year-old female," he said. "She presented to the emergency room within about 18 hours of the onset of symptoms with some insistence from her family. We picked up [on signs of TTS] that day and it was critical.

"She's done remarkably well so I think early diagnosis … is really, really important."

The other piece of the puzzle is that, according to both Professor Skerritt and Professor Tran, our ability to treat the disorder has also meant fewer deaths. "It's a condition that we now know we can treat really well," Professor Tran said.

"The combination of education, early recognition, has meant early therapy [which] has led to a really good outcome."


Norway dumps all Covid restrictions to ‘live as normal’

Norway has ditched all its Covid-19 measures, even social distancing, in a radical move that as yet has unclear consequences.

On Friday, the Nordic nation’s government announced that it was time to “live as normal” with Covid-19 after 561 days of enduring some kind of restriction, whether that be venue capacity limits or stay-at-home orders.

Now, Norwegians can attend restaurants, night clubs, sporting events and anything else at full capacity, with social distancing thrown out the window.

They’ve even started encouraging travel outside of Europe, removing travel warnings.

The new rules come into effect on Saturday, 4pm local time.

“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime … Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told reporters. “In short, we can now live as normal.”

That’s despite the nation of five million people having 67 per cent fully vaccinated — lower than Australia’s “magic number” of reopening, at 80 per cent.

The extreme move is part of a four-step plan to scrap all restrictions implemented on March 10 last year. Norway was up to the final step but it was postponed several times over fears of rising infections.

The country’s health Minister sent a letter to municipalities alerting them to prepare for the ending of restrictions.

Like most countries, Norway was hit hard by the delta strain of the coronavirus. In total, the country has recorded nearly 186,000 local cases of Covid-19 and has tragically had 850 deaths. For comparison, Australia has had more than 93,000 cases to date and 1,208 deaths. In the last 24 hours, Norway has recorded 705 new cases.

However, its health body, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, recommended that society be reopened.

According to Reuters, Norway has had 98 infections per 100,000 people in its population.

Globally, there have been 230 million cases of Covid-19, with 4.7 million deaths and more than 6 billion doses of vaccine administered.

The 67 per cent vaccination figure counts the entire population, including children, not just its eligible adults.

Earlier this month, the Pfizer vaccine was opened up to 12-15-year-olds.

According to the nation's health body, 90.6 per cent of adults have received their first jab, while 83.8 have received their second dose.

That puts the nation ahead of Australia, which sits at 50.9 per cent of people 16 and over fully-vaccinated, and 75.4 per cent getting their first jab, according to the Federal Government.

Last week, Norway's Covid infection levels decreased by 33 per cent compared to the week before, while hospital admissions dropped from 95 to 67 as vaccinations caught up with the virus, according to Life In Norway.

The Norwegian government said its citizens didn’t have to live a Covid-normal life if they didn’t want to.

“When the authorities‘ advice and rules essentially disappear, the individual can choose for themselves what risk they want to take and what measures they want to practice,” they said in a statement.

Norway is the second Scandinavian country to end the restrictions, following in the footsteps of Denmark who waved goodbye to lockdowns on September 10.

The UK has also adopted a largely “Covid-normal” existence although case numbers continue to flare.

Singapore adopted a similar approach in July but backflipped in less than two weeks after the plan failed miserably.

Infections went from eight to almost 200 in 10 days, prompting restrictions to be brought back for the Asian country.

In fact, on Saturday, Singapore had to tighten its restrictions even further with only groups of two allowed in restaurants and children having to switch to at-home learning, despite the nation hitting an 80 per cent double dose rate.

The news of Norway’s new-found freedom is an extra slap in the face for NSW and Victorian residents, who are both in the throes of a months-long lockdown.

The UK and Denmark are yet to backtrack on their radical move to end Covid rules entirely. It remains to be seen whether Norway will do the same.



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