Coronavirus digest: Denmark halts AstraZeneca vaccination indefinitely | News | DW | 14.04.2021
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Coronavirus digest: Denmark halts AstraZeneca vaccination indefinitely

Denmark will stop using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine altogether because of suspected rare but serious side effects. Meanwhile, South Korea reported its highest case count in three months. Follow DW for the latest.

People wait in line for their vaccinations

Deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Europe have been put on hold

Denmark has decided to officially stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether, becoming the first European country to do so.

It was the first nation to suspend administering the shot after initial suspicions that rare types of blood clots were found in some of the vaccine's recipients. Other countries at the time followed suit temporarily, however, many have since returned to using the vaccine only for older people.

The country temporarily halted the vaccinations on March 11 as a precautionary measure.

The decision means the scheduled conclusion of Denmark's vaccination scheme will be in early August rather than July 25, as health authorities had planned.

Here's a roundup of some of the other main coronavirus-related stories around the world on Wednesday.

Europe

European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen says the EU plans to order 1.8 billion doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine by 2023.

Von der Leyen said the bloc was placing its confidence in the jab, which has been the mainstay of the bloc's vaccination campaign so far.

The Commission chief also said the bloc was bringing forward an order for delivery of 50 million doses of the vaccine to the second quarter of this year, after makers of the Johnson & JOhnson vaccine suspended their deliveries. 

In Germany, people under 60 who have been given a first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will receive a different shot for their second dose, authorities said. Germany announced on March 30 that it would no longer offer the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged under 60 because of a possible link to rare cases of blood clots.

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Germany's Robert Koch Institute reported 21,693 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 342 deaths related to the coronavirus, with the seven-day incidence rate rising to 153.2 per 100,000 people from 140.9 on the previous day.

As lockdowns start to lift in London, the legendary frontman for the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, along with drummer and Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl have released a surprise pandemic rock anthem titled "Eazy Sleazy" on social media.

"It's a song about eventually coming out of lockdown, with some much-needed optimism," Jagger said in a statement Tuesday.

Next-generation rock legend Grohl has been fairly active more generally during the pandemic, with the remote rivalry he struck up with aspiring young drummer Nandi Bushell in Britain becoming one of the feel-good lockdown stories of 2020.

France has said it will continue to use COVID-19 vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, despite reports of rare blood clots that could be associated with the shots.

The European Medicines Agency plans to issue an opinion next week on cases of blood clots that may be associated with the jab.

Until the decision is made, however, the vaccine can continue to be used without restriction. The EMA presently maintains that the vaccine's "benefits in preventing Covid-19" outweigh the risks of side effects.

In France, people older than 55 will be vaccinated as planned.

The Netherlands, however, will not use the vaccine until more is known about possible thromboses. Sweden and Denmark have said they will wait until the EMA issues its verdict.

Romania's Prime Minister Florin Citu has fired his health minister, Vlad Voiculescu, over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"I decided to make a change at the top of the Health Ministry to make sure that trust in state institutions is preserved," Citu told reporters, without going into detail about why Voiculescu was dismissed.

The sacking is something of a blow to the country's center-right coalition. Citu's liberal party PNL and Voiculescu's USR/PLUS formed a governing coalition last December, along with the with Hungarian minority party UDMR.

Americas

Brazil's Supreme Court has confirmed that the Senate will install a committee to investigate the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The congressional investigation could, in theory, lead to the referral of possible wrongdoing to law enforcement.

Bolsonaro is already facing record disapproval over the handling of the pandemic.

The news came as Brazil's richest and most populous state, Sao Paulo, warned that its capacity to care for seriously ill COVID-19 patients was on the verge of collapse.

Oceania

The Australian state of Queensland announced on Wednesday that it would relax its measures starting at 6 a.m. on Thursday, lifting limitations on hospital visits and a requirement to carry a mask at all times in public, among other restrictions. People are still encouraged to wear masks in crowded spaces. 

Australia and Oceania as a whole have weathered the pandemic comparatively well to date. The state of Queensland has registered just over 1,500 cases and seven deaths to date, across a population of 5 million. Norway, with a comparable population, has logged more than 100,000 cases and 688 deaths.

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Asia

Mainland China reported 12 new cases on Wednesday, up from nine on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the leader of Hong Kong's executive body, Carrie Lam, said vaccinated residents would soon be allowed to form "vaccination bubbles," enabling them to socialize with fewer restrictions. The port city is trying to encourage its residents to get inoculated, with only 8% of the population vaccinated since Hong Kong began issuing shots in February.

Bhutan has given at least one vaccine to more than 94% of its adult population in just over two weeks. The small Asian country was able to administer 475,651 AstraZeneca shots after careful planning and preparation.

Only Israel and Seychelles — both of which began their vaccination drives in December — have given jabs to a greater share of their adult populations.

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South Korea reported 731 new cases, as the country strains to increase its testing and vaccination programs to contain COVID-19. The country's health authority said it would consider authorizing the use of self-administered quick tests, despite their comparatively low accuracy, in a bid to keep the numbers in check.

Holding the postponed Tokyo Olympics this summer will be "really difficult," following a spike in infections across Japan, the head of the Tokyo Medical Association warned. 

"If infections spread further, in reality it would be difficult to hold the Olympics in its regular form with athletes coming from various countries, even if the games are held with no spectators," the Sports Hochi daily quoted Haruo Ozaki as saying at a Tuesday press conference.

"From my position as the head of medical workers, I have to say that holding the games is really difficult," he said. The comments come as Tokyo marks 100 days until the virus-postponed 2020 Olympics open on July 23.

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India reached a record number of 184,372 new infections in the past 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed on Wednesday. The country's nationwide tally of infections is 13.9 million, with data showing that deaths rose by 1,027, for a total of 172,085. The nation has been grappling with a shortage in vaccines.

Africa-Middle East

For the Muslim holy month of RamadanSaudi Arabia is allowing a limited number vaccinated mask-clad worshipers into the Grand Mosque in Mecca for the Umrah pilgrimage.

Muslims pray during the first dawn prayers of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they keep social distancing to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

Morning prayers around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque now require a greater distance between worshipers

According to the ministry that oversees the annual pilgrimage, people who have either received two vaccine doses, or their first dose within the past 14 days, or who have had and recovered from COVID-19, are eligible. Permitted visitor numbers are drastically reduced, however, to enable people to maintain their distance.

Malawi is set to destroy more than 16,000 expired coronavirus vaccines donated by the African Union.

Some 102,000 jabs were donated three weeks before their use-by-date, but health officials in the impoverished nation were unable to use all of them.

The African nation launched its inoculation campaign in March, seeking to immunize some 11 million people - or 60 percent of the population – by the end of the year.

However, a slow rollout so far has been partially blamed on low uptake due to vaccine hesitancy.

mb, lc, rc/msh (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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