The AstraZeneca vaccine remains under investigation for its potential role in blood clots observed among recipients of the jabs. Its use has been restricted in countries such as France, Germany and Canada, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) saying its benefits outweighed the possible negatives.
Scientists remain divided on the current findings. Some point to the unusual nature of the clots, such as them often occurring alongside low levels of platelets in the body (platelets are often one of the main constituents of a clot) as a potential sign that the vaccine is a contributing factor. Others say the number of cases are so small it is conceivable they are naturally occurring and are not affected by the vaccine. Several scientists have also pointed out that Covid-19 has been linked to non-typical blood clotting.
So far, the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany has recorded 31 cases of “cerebral venous sinus thromboses” (CVSTs) among 2.7 million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab. A British study records 30 clots within a mass of 18 million recipients of the vaccine. The EMA’s current stance is that a connection is “not proven, but possible.”
In the UK, the number of coronavirus deaths continues to fall, with the latest daily statistics showing 26 deaths. This brings the total number of those dead within 28 days of a positive test result to nearly 127,000. The total number of cases has reached over 4.3 million and more than 31.5 million people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
In Eastern and Central Europe, cases of the virus are mounting sharply. Poland is in the midst of a wave of cases 60 times higher than at the start of the pandemic last year. The Slovakian prime minister, Igor Matovic, has resigned after the uncovering of a controversial secret deal to obtain two million Sputnik V vaccines from Russia.
The worst hit countries have been France, Turkey, Poland, Italy and Germany. France experienced a seven-day rolling average of 38,000 new cases per day from January to the end of March this year.
To address concerns of a rise in cases domestically following the relaxing of measures next week, the UK government has proposed a plan to offer everyone in England two rapid coronavirus tests a week, starting from this Friday. The tests have a 30-minute turnaround time, but critics of the plan have said it will be a colossal waste of money.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has said the new testing scheme will help the government react more swiftly to any new outbreaks after the easing of measures on 12 April. Under the loosened restrictions, non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen as well as gyms, hairdressers, and pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers sitting outside.
In Norfolk, cases of coronavirus have increased by almost one-fifth, although the figures remain below the England and east region averages. Cases have also dropped amongst the over-60s, having a strong impact on care homes in the county. The number of hospital cases have also fallen.
Data released at the start of April showed the vaccination programme proceeding efficiently, with over 65% of the adults in Norfolk and Waveney having received their first injection, and an additional 6.3% having been fully vaccinated.
In a recent press conference, one Norwich resident asked the government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, if vaccines for children were being looked into. He was told that while a children’s vaccine was being explored, there is “no evidence the virus is going to mutate to specifically affect children.”