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Corona update : Europe’s drug regulator recommends continued use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Corona update : Europe’s drug regulator recommends continued use of AstraZeneca vaccine

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) considers AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine to be safe but there will be a warning added. Düsseldorf will start using AstraZeneca again on Friday. Meanwhile, the state of NRW expects numbers to rise so no relief from restrictions is in sight. Here are the latest updates from the GA live blog.

People in Germany have to expect continued restrictions on their lives because of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reported within seven days (seven-day incidence rate) peaked on December 22 at 197.6. The number fluctuated after that and then dropped significantly, but has been rising again for several days.

The differences between the various German states, however, are enormous. Meanwhile, people continue to receive vaccines. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has recorded more than 2.5 million cases of Sars-CoV-2 in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic. The actual total number is likely to be much higher, as many infections go undetected. The total number of people who have died from or in connection with Covid-19 has risen to more than 73,000.

EU Medicines Agency: The benefits of the drug outweigh the risks

AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine is safe, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA). They have not been able to establish a connection of the vaccine with an increasing risk of blood clots in humans, EMA Director Emer Cooke said Thursday in Amsterdam. At the same time, however, a link in certain cases could not be definitively ruled out. Overall, the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks, Cooke said.

Several European countries had suspended the use of Covid-19 vaccinations with AstraZeneca over the past week. On Monday, Germany suspended the use of the vaccine because of new reports of blood clots following the vaccination. German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) stressed that it was a precautionary measure. The EMA approved the vaccine from the British-Swedish manufacturer at the end of January as the third EU-wide vaccine. The EU Commission subsequently approved it.

Düsseldorf to start vaccinating with AstraZeneca again on Friday

The North Rhine-Westphalian state capital of Düsseldorf plans to start using the AstraZeneca vaccine again on Friday - even if there is no official decree from the Federal Ministry of Health by then. This was announced by Mayor Stephan Keller (CDU) on Thursday afternoon at the city council meeting. The district of Viersen had made the same announcement. Other districts and cities still want to wait and see.

Vaccines more effective against Brazilian variant than thought

Vaccines from Biontech and AstraZeneca are more effective against the Brazilian variant than initially thought, according to a study. For the Brazilian P.1 variant, the vaccines achieved similar efficacy as reached for the UK variant, according to the not-yet peer-reviewed study published Thursday by Oxford University. "The results suggest that P.1 may be less resistant to vaccine-triggered immune responses than B.1.351, and similar to B.1.1.7," said author of the study Gavin Screaton. Initially, it had been thought that the variant from Brazil might cause particularly severe problems if it evaded the effects of vaccines.

At the same time, the study also shows that the antibodies produced by vaccines generally neutralize the viruses of all three coronavirus variants less efficiently than those of the original form of Sars-Cov-2. According to the new findings, this is true to a similar extent for the variant from Brazil as for the variant B.1.1.7 discovered in the UK.

NRW government expects corona numbers to rise: no relief from restrictions

There will be no relief from corona-related restrictions in North Rhine-Westphalia on Monday. This was clarified by the Ministry of Health in Düsseldorf on Thursday. Until anything further is decided at the Conference of State Premiers on March 22, there will be "no changes in the Corona Protection Ordinance for possible easing of restrictions."

The ordinance, which is valid until March 28, states that further openings could be possible by March 22 - for example in outdoor dining, theaters, concert halls and opera houses, cinemas and sports. The prerequisite, however, would be that the nationwide infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants and seven days, is stable or even below 100 with a downward trend.

"In view of the current rate of infections with a nationwide weekly incidence rate of 92.1 today (+7.0 from the previous day), it can neither be assumed that the given mark has fallen nor that the infection situation is stable," the ministry stated.

Due to the developments over the past days, it is rather to be assumed "that the incidence rate will also increase nationwide in the next days".

This means there will be no changes as of Monday. Instead, one has to wait for the conference of the State Premiers on March 22 and see what the situation is at that time.

(Orig. text: GA; Translation: ck)