The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is under investigation by the WHO following its use being put on hold in 11 European countries. The decision was made after reports emerged of people who had recently been injected with the vaccine developing blood clots.

The WHO however, has said there is no evidence to suggest the clots had anything to do with the vaccine. Of the 17 million people who have received at least one jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK and mainland Europe, only 37 cases of blood clots have so far been reported. It is not uncommon for such clots to develop naturally, and the number of reports are at about the level health officials would expect normally, even in populations without the vaccine.

 The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will deliver their verdict on Thursday 18th. This is the second time the EU has raised a problem with the AstraZeneca vaccine, after initially suggesting its effectiveness was limited in over-65s, a decision which they have since reversed.

The decision to halt usage of the vaccine this time around has brought criticism from health experts, such as Professor Adam Finn, a member of a Covid-19 vaccine specialist group at the WHO. He called the decision “highly undesirable” and said that “having a steady hand on the tiller is what is probably what is needed most.”

Currently, the UK has one of the lowest rates of coronavirus infection in Europe, with 53 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days. Spain and Germany, both of which have paused using the AstraZeneca vaccine, have 73 and 85 new cases per 100,000 respectively; and France is much higher, standing at 249.

A total of 5,089 new cases were reported in the UK in the last 24-hour period, continuing a lessening trend. More than 24 million people, that is over a third of the country’s population, have received at least one dose of a vaccine; and the death toll also continues to drop, with 64 deaths reported due to coronavirus in the latest daily statistics.

Amidst the national picture, parts of North Norfolk still rank amongst the areas least affected by the virus. The villages of Holt and Weybourne combined have had around 82 cases, though precise statistics are hard to come by, as the government withholds data about areas with fewer than three cases per week.

Public Health England (PHE) has said that transmissions tend to be greater in areas with a larger population density, where the virus has more opportunity to spread, and in areas of greater deprivation, higher ethnic diversity and with a greater age-range amongst the inhabitants. Infections can also be increased if there are public institutions such as prisons or hospitals in the local area.

Both Weybourne and Holt have elderly populations, with nearly 40% of Holt residents being over the age of 65. However, the government still advises strict compliance with protective measures, even in low-risk areas, stressing the importance of social distancing and wearing masks.

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Jamie Hose

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July 2021
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