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COVID-19

European Commission will propose a Digital Green Pass

Catherine Feore

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christian wiegand, european commission spokesperson

The European Commission has announced that it will present a legislative proposal for a Digital Green Pass on 17 March. The certificate will contain proof that a person has been vaccinated, results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet and may also consider recovery from COVID-19. The Digital Green Pass is aimed at enabling the safe movement of people across the European Union, or further afield. 

Asked about the proposal, European Commision spokesperson Christian Wiegand said that if the passes were to be in place by the summer, member states would need to move quickly in their preparations and rollout. He said that countries had already agreed on basic data requirements. The European Commission would take a co-ordinating role ensuring high security standards and helping to connect different national health services. 

The EU’s aim is to facilitate safe free movement - apart from vaccination, the EU will be looking at other categories of information to avoid discrimination.

Belgian Foreign Minister and former prime minister Sophie Wilmès tweeted: “The idea of a standardized European system that allows each individual to gather pieces of information about one’s vaccination, COVID-tests, etc. on a single digital document (certificate) is a good one.”

However, she added that the notion of a "pass" is confusing in relation to the objective that this certificate should pursue.

In a further tweet, Wilmès wrote: “For Belgium, there is no question of linking vaccination to the freedom of movement around Europe. Respect for the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever since vaccination is not compulsory and access to the vaccine is not yet generalized.”

COVID-19

EMA finds a possible - very rare - link to blood clots for Janssen vaccine

Catherine Feore

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA)  safety committee has concluded (20 April) that a warning about unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be added to the product information for the COVID-19 Vaccine developed by Dutch company Janssen, also known as the Johnston and Johnson vaccine. 

The new advice comes after eight reports of serious cases of unusual blood clots in the United States, which has already used this product to vaccinate more than seven million people. One of these cases resulted in a fatality. All cases occurred in people under 60 years of age within three weeks of vaccination, the majority in women. The cases reviewed were very similar to the cases that occurred with the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, Vaxzevria.

It will be up to individual EU countries to decide whether they want to use this vaccine. The Janssen vaccine has the notable advantage of only requiring a single-shot, rather than a two-dose process.

The EMA are clear that the use of the vaccine continues to outweigh the risks for people who receive it. The vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 and reducing hospitalisations and deaths.

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COVID-19

EMA finds AstraZeneca vaccine has no specific risks linked to age or gender

Catherine Feore

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Emer cooke, executive director, European medicines agency

EMA’s safety committee has concluded today (7 April) that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria - AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European Medicines Executive Director, Emer Cooke, said: "The safey committee, after an in-depth analysis, has concluded that the reported cases of unusual blood clots following vaccination with AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine.” In reaching its conclusion, the committee took into consideration all currently available evidence. However, Cooke was at pains to underline that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid far outweigh the risks of side effects.

The safety Committee (PRAC) have concluded, based on current evidence, that there are no specific risk factors, such as age, gender, or previous medical history of clotting disorders linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, the agency encouraged people to continue to come forward and to report any symptoms that they believe may be linked to their vaccination. 

At the same time as EMA reported its findings, the UK’s regulator reported that it would be recommending a different vaccine for under 30s - a group that is not yet broadly eligible for vaccination. Based on the 20.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine the UK has administered, it estimates that the overall risk of blood clots is approximately 4 people in a million who receive the vaccine.

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Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 3 million amid new infections resurgence

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Coronavirus-related deaths worldwide crossed 3 million on Tuesday (6 April), according to a Reuters tally, as the latest global resurgence of COVID-19 infections is challenging vaccination efforts across the globe, write Roshan Abraham and Anurag Maan.

Worldwide COVID-19 deaths are rising once again, especially in Brazil and India. Health officials blame more infectious variants that were first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, along with public fatigue with lockdowns and other restrictions.

Global COVID graphic

According to a Reuters tally, it took more than a year for the global coronavirus death toll to reach 2 million. The next 1 million deaths were added in about three months.

Brazil is leading the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported and accounts for one in every four deaths worldwide each day, according to a Reuters analysis.

The World Health Organization acknowledged the nation’s dire condition due to coronavirus, saying the country is in a very critical condition with an overwhelmed healthcare system.

“Indeed there is a very serious situation going on in Brazil right now, where we have a number of states in critical condition,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told a briefing last Thursday, adding that many hospital intensive care units are more than 90% full.

India reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections on Monday, becoming the second nation after the United States to post more than 100,000 new cases in a day.

India’s worst-affected state, Maharashtra on Monday began shutting shopping malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants, and places of worship, as hospitals are being overrun by patients.

The European region, which includes 51 countries, has the highest total number of deaths at nearly 1.1 million.

Five European countries including the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Italy and Germany constitute about 60% of Europe’s total coronavirus-related deaths.

The United States has the highest number of deaths of any country at the world at 555,000 and accounts for about 19% of all deaths due to COVID-19 in the world. Cases have risen for the last three weeks but health officials believe the nation’s rapid vaccination campaign may prevent a rise in deaths. A third of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

At least 370.3 million people or nearly 4.75% of the global population have received a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday, according to latest figures from research and data provider firm Our World in Data.

However, the World Health Organization is urging countries to donate more doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines to help meet vaccination targets for the most vulnerable in poorer countries.

Global COVID vaccination graphic

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