Norway is considering donating its AstraZeneca vaccines to other countries

Bent HøiePhoto: Annika Byrde / NTB

On Wednesday, the Norwegian government decided to follow the recommendation of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) and the Vorland committee and remove the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Norwegian vaccination program

The Janssen vaccine will be stockpiled while the Norwegian government considers how to offer this vaccine on a voluntary basis.

The rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine was paused on March 11, 2021, following reports of rare but serious side effects. 

The Janssen vaccine is also a viral vector vaccine like the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it can have the same side effects. At present, the Janssen vaccine has not been rolled out in Norway.

The FHI has recommended that the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines be withdrawn from the Norwegian vaccination program. The Norwegian government asked an expert committee led by Lars Vorland to perform a comprehensive assessment of their use before deciding whether or not to use these vaccines in Norway. 

Expert recommendation

The expert group advised against the use of the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines in the vaccination program due to the risk of rare but serious side effects. 

This recommendation must be seen in light of the low infection rate in Norway and good access to other vaccines.

“The Norwegian government has decided not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine in Norway, not even on a voluntary basis. The rare but serious side effects we have seen in Norway indicate that the risks do not outweigh the benefits. 

“This is particularly true as we expect a considerably higher number of mRNA vaccines in the future, and the interval between the first and the second dose of the vaccine has been extended, so that more people will be vaccinated more quickly”, Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie said.

Donation of AstraZeneca vaccines

The EU’s agreement with AstraZeneca and Janssen allows the donation of vaccines to other countries. One option is that the doses awarded to Norway are returned to the EU, the Norwegian Ministry of Health noted in a press release.

Another option is to pass on vaccine doses to other countries through the Covax vaccine alliance. The Norwegian government is now beginning the work of finding a practical solution to this issue.

“We are doing this in collaboration with the Council of Europe and the EU countries that are covered by the AstraZeneca agreement. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved by the European Medicines Agency and the Norwegian Medicines Agency. 

“This is an effective vaccine which has been used in many other countries, and we will therefore make sure that Norway’s doses can be used in other countries with a more serious infection situation than here in Norway,” Høie stated.

Norway has, among other things, lent doses to Sweden and Iceland while the use of the vaccine has been paused in the country. 

Source: Ministry of Health and Care Services / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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