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A health worker administering a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Berlin
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been mired by concerns over its safetyImage: Soeren Stache/dpa/picture alliance

Coronavirus digest: AstraZeneca corrects trial results

March 25, 2021

The vaccine producer updated the results of its large-scale study after being rebuked by a US regulator. India has seen a spike in new infections. Follow DW for the latest.

https://p.dw.com/p/3r5UT

The British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca slightly lowered its own vaccine's effectiveness rating on Thursday after publishing dated results of a large-scale trial on Monday.

The company said that the vaccine was 76% effective at preventing symptomatic coronavirus infections. Among people aged over 65, the vaccine was 85% effective.

The statement released by the company also spoke of 100% effectiveness in preventing severe or critical illness or hospitalization.

AstraZeneca first published the results of the phase III study on Monday, but was called out by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases the following day for using "outdated information."

The data published on Monday had not included more recent infection data.

The results previously showed slightly higher effectiveness of 79% after carrying out a trial with some 32,500 test subjects in several countries including the US.

The study was not able to identify any "safety concerns related to the vaccine." Earlier in the month, several countries suspended their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after concerns were raised regarding blood clots among some vaccine recipients.

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Europe

The head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI), Lothar Wieler, called lockdowns Germany's only "tool" against a third wave, speaking online to an event organized by the German embassy in Washington on Wednesday evening.

He said that around 80% of the population would need to become immune to the virus to stop the increasing number of infections. Strict hygiene measures would have to stay in place until the vaccination campaign made further advances.

The RKI reported 22,657 new daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday, as well as 228 new deaths. The seven-day incidence rate reached 113 per 100,000 people.

Hungary's state secretary for education suggested on Thursday that planned school openings in April would have to be delayed as the country battles one of the world's worst waves of infections.

The eastern European country has one of the highest per-capita vaccination rates in the EU. However, hospitals have been placed under strain by rising infection rates and it has become the country with the highest number of per-capita COVID-19 deaths. Almost 19,000 people in the country have died in connection with the virus since the pandemic broke out, representing around 0.2% of the population.

Denmark has extended the suspension of use of the AstraZeneca shots for three weeks. The country's health authority said it had not ruled out a potential link to blood clots despite the EU medicines regulator and the World Health Organization deeming it safe. 

The Scandinavian country was the first to pause the AstraZeneca jab. 

Meanwhile, Sweden announced that it would resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65, after suspending the jab last week. 

Americas

The US passed 30 million recorded coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University. The US has reported the most COVID-19 infections in the world.

Brazil passed 300,000 deaths on Wednesday, becoming only the second country to do so. The health ministry recorded 2,009 new COVID-19 deaths. Local media have called it an undercount.

On Tuesday the country saw a single-day record for deaths as 3,251 died from the virus.

Asia

The Olympic torch relay set off from Fukushima in Japan on Thursday, starting a four-month countdown until the postponed Olympic Games, to be held this summer.

The starting ceremony was held in the region that was devastated by a tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown a decade ago. The event was closed to the public because of the pandemic but streamed live.

India recorded a spike in new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday. The country saw its highest daily rise in cases — 53,476 — since October last year. The total number of recorded cases stands at 11.8 million, the third-highest number in the world, behind the US and Brazil. There were also 251 new coronavirus deaths reported.

India's fight against new 'double mutant' COVID-19 variant

Middle East

Israel has fully vaccinated over half of its 9.3 million-strong population, a health official said on Thursday.

The country has been considered a model of how to manage a vaccination drive after starting to vaccinate people with the Pfizer jab in December. Recipients are deemed fully protected a week after receiving the second shot.

ab/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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