LiveLIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus NI - Lockdown not vaccine has brought down cases and deaths says Boris Johnson - Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspended after blood clots reported in USA - 34% increase in Covid infections in seven days

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said lockdown measures across the United Kingdom and not Covid-19 vaccines have reduced the number of new coronavirus infections and deaths

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 3:45 pm

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Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus NI - Lockdown not vaccine has brought down cases and deaths says Boris Johnson - Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspended after blood clots reported in USA - 34% increase in Covid infections in seven days

Last updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2021, 16:00

  • Lockdown not vaccine has brought down cases and deaths says Boris Johnson
  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspended after blood clots reported in USA
  • 34% increase in Covid infections in seven days
  • Royal Victoria Hospital reports death to MHRA Yellow Card scheme

Johnson & Johnson delays vaccine rollout in Europe amid blood clots probe in US

Johnson & Johnson has said it is delaying the rollout of its coronavirus vaccine in Europe amid a US probe into rare blood clots - writes Associated Press reporter.

The company announced the decision on Tuesday after regulators in the United States said they were recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

“We have been reviewing these cases with European health authorities,” the company said.

“We have made the decision to proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe.”

It comes after the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a joint statement saying they were investigating unusual clots in six women that occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.

The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets.

All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48.

The reports appear similar to a rare, unusual type of clotting disorder that European authorities say is possibly linked to another Covid-19 vaccine not yet cleared in the US, from AstraZeneca.

The delay is a further blow to vaccination drives in European Union member nations, which have been plagued by supply shortages, logistical problems and concerns over unusual blood clots in a small number of people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The blood clot reports prompted several countries in the 27-nation bloc to limit the AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups, who are more at risk from serious illness when infected with Covid-19.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU’s equivalent to the FDA, said last Friday that it was reviewing cases reported in the United States of blood clotting in people who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was developed by the company’s Janssen subsidiary.

The Amsterdam-based EMA said following the US announcement on Tuesday that it “is currently not clear whether there is a causal association between vaccination with Covid-19 Vaccine Janssen and these conditions”.

The European agency’s safety committee “is investigating these cases and will decide whether regulatory action may be necessary”, the EMA said in an email to the Associated Press.

The EU ordered 200 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in 2021.

Britain ordered 30 million doses of the J& J vaccine, though UK regulators have not yet approved its use.

Officials in Germany, which was due to receive 232,800 doses of the vaccine this week and 10.1 million doses by the end of June, said earlier on Tuesday that there were no immediate plans to change the schedule.

“I don’t currently have the date from which Johnson & Johnson will be administered,” Health Ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz told reporters in Berlin.

“But in principle, we naturally always take such warnings in an international context seriously and investigate them.”

Italy also expected to receive its first Johnson & Johnson deliveries this week.

The Lazio region surrounding Rome planned to give the prison population the single jab, while the northern Veneto region, which includes Venice, planned to use it for housebound adults over 80.

“I am watching today’s news with concern, as a humanitarian actor. I am also watching with satisfaction, because the regulatory system is working,” Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross, told foreign reporters in Italy.

“I imagine there will be repercussions, as we are waiting for millions of doses. But this means the controls are working. If we need to be prudent, we need to be prudent.”

Easing lockdown restrictions will inevitably lead to more deaths – Johnson

Boris Johnson has warned that the easing of lockdown restrictions will “inevitably” lead to more infections and deaths as the NHS moved to the next stage of vaccine rollout by inviting people aged between 45 and 50 to book an appointment - writes Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent.

The Prime Minister urged people to continue to “exercise restraint” as beer gardens were packed and shoppers flocked to high streets after the latest round of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions were lifted in England on Monday.

Mr Johnson said that although vaccines had helped, lockdown restrictions had done “the bulk of the work” in reducing Covid-19 infections.

The start of “Phase 2” of the vaccination programme – which involves offering vaccines to healthy adults aged under 50 – came after the Government met its target of offering the vaccine to all those in the highest risk groups.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: “It’s great that we have managed to achieve the target of getting everyone in the one to nine (priority) groups vaccinated by the deadline, by the timetable – a little bit ahead actually, 32 million people now have got their first dose, which is terrific.

“We are going now to the 45-49 group, they are being asked to come forward.”

But he added: “Of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.

“So, as we unlock, the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, sadly we will see more hospitalisation and deaths.

“People have just got to understand that.”

Mr Johnson said there were no plans at present to change the road map out of lockdown. The next “waymarks” on England’s plan to ease restrictions are due on May 17 and June 21.

“But it is very, very important that, if we are to get there in the way that we all want, people continue to be cautious and they continue to exercise restraint and just do the basic things to stop the spread of the virus – washing your hands, giving people plenty of space, doing things in fresh air,” he added.

Mr Johnson urged the eligible people to come forward and get their jab when offered, adding that he remains “very confident” about vaccine supplies despite previous concerns over constraints.

When The NHS’s online booking system opened up to include people over the age of 45 on Tuesday, the website crashed for many.

There are an estimated 3.7 million people in England aged 45 to 49.

The NHS in England said 19 out of 20 of those most at risk of the virus have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

An estimated 27 million people in England are in the top nine priority groups, so it is likely around 25.7 million have received their first Covid-19 jab.

But this suggests around 1.3 million have not had the jab.

One vaccination expert said that it was “vitally important” to vaccinate “the last few per cent”, or they could get infected and end up in hospital.

Professor Jeremy Brown, from University College London Hospitals and a member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told the Today programme: “The problem here is that 5-10% have not been vaccinated.

“When the virus re-circulates through the community they could get infected and end up in hospital.

“So it’s vitally important that we get that last few per cent.”

Elsewhere:

– People in England have begun to receive the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

– The number of registered deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales has fallen to the lowest level in six months. There were 400 deaths registered in the week ending April 2 where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate – the lowest since October 2, according to the Office for National Statistics.

– Surge testing has begun in the boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth in south London following the identification of a number of cases of a variant of the virus first found in South Africa.

– The US has recommended a “pause” for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to investigate clotting reports.

– Nicola Sturgeon announced that coronavirus travel restrictions in Scotland are to be eased from Friday, and six adults from up to six households will be able to meet up outside.

It comes as a 28-year-old solicitor became one of the first people in England to receive the Moderna vaccine as part of the mass vaccination programme when she got her jab at Sheffield Arena, shortly after 9am.

Emily Sanderson, who has an underlying health condition, was due to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, but it was changed to Moderna, the NHS said.

UK regulators said last week that people under the age of 30 should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying there was a possible link between the jab and “extremely rare” blood clots.

Meanwhile, Ireland became the latest country to restrict the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying it should not be given to people under the age of 60, amid concerns over possible links to rare blood clotting events.

In all, the Government said almost 40 million doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have been delivered since the rollout began in the UK in December, including 32 million first jabs and more than seven million second doses.

Throughout the current month, the health service has prioritised second doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines with a record 475,230 people receiving their second jab on Saturday.

People in tears after receiving vaccine sees NI vaccination centre place boxes of hankies in each booth

Health Minister Robin Swann has called for patience this Easter

Health Minister Robin Swann has told MLAs how one vaccination centre in Northern Ireland is placing a box of hankies in each vaccination booth, such is the emotional reaction of many people after they receive their first jab.

Minister Swann said he visited a vaccination centre in Northern Ireland on Monday during which he heard how many people have been reduced to tears after receiving the vaccination.

“The manager said the one thing they were not prepared for was the number of people who were in tears after they received their first dose of the vaccine,” said Minister Swann.

“There was also a lady who thanked the person administering the vaccine for holding her hand - it was the first time she touched another human being since last March.

Irish advisory panel: AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given to people under 60

The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. (Pacemaker)

The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine should not be administered to people under the age of 60 in Ireland, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has said - writes Michelle Devane and Cate McCurry, PA.

The panel recommended restrictions on its use after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) warned that rare blood clots have been associated with the jab.

In a statement, NIAC said the AstraZeneca vaccine “is not recommended for those aged under 60 years including those with medical conditions with very high or high risk of severe Covid-19 disease”.

The advisory body added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be limited to those aged 60 and older.

NIAC chairwoman Professor Karina Butler said the committee realises the need to balance the significant benefits of a national vaccination programme with the very rare risk of reported blood clot events.

“While this is an extremely rare condition, consideration must be given to the fact that it has a very high risk of death or severe outcome,” she said.

“As the risk/benefits of Vaxzevria Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine may vary by age and as alternative Covid-19 vaccines are available, NIAC has revised the recommendations for use of this vaccine.

“In developing these recommendations, NIAC is informed by the available scientific evidence and the risk/benefits of the vaccines. New evidence will be reviewed once available and any further required recommendations will be notified to the Department of Health.”

Prof Butler told a press briefing at the Department of Health the rare blood clotting is estimated to occur in between four and 10 in every million people, one of whom may die.

“However, as so few events have been reported, there is a high level of uncertainty regarding the incidence of this extremely rare adverse event in any particular age group, or gender,” she said.

“Although most cases occurred in women under 60 years of age. This may be because of the higher rates of vaccination and healthcare workers who are predominantly female.”

NIAC said anyone under 60 who has had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine with a “very high-risk or high-risk medical condition” should receive their second dose 12 weeks later as scheduled.

But anyone under 60 who is not considered to be high risk should have the second dose extended to 16 weeks “to allow for further assessment of the benefits and risks as more evidence becomes available”.

Anyone aged 60 and older should receive their second dose 12 weeks later as scheduled.

The HSE said it had written to hospital groups and community healthcare organisations on Monday evening to advise them that all AstraZeneca clinics planned for Tuesday “should be cancelled in light of updated guidance received from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, and the Department of Health”.

“Anybody due to attend an AstraZeneca clinic is therefore advised not to do so,” the HSE said.

It added it will be in contact with patients in due course to rearrange appointments.

It has raised concerns that any restrictions could affect the country’s vaccine programme.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the change does not necessarily mean there will be a delay to the vaccination programme.

“It will likely have an impact – the extent of that impact, though, remains to be seen,” he said.

“It’s not necessarily the case that this will have a material impact or delay on the rollout of the programme at a population level.”

He said those who had received the AstraZeneca jab to date should be “reassured that they’ve got a very effective vaccine”.

“I would hope that if they can see that for any age group the risks associated with receipt of this vaccine are very, very small,” he added.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said operational changes would be made if NIAC recommended them.

Mr Donnelly said: “They’ve given guidance previously on various vaccines and age groups and that has all been implemented.

“It comes at a big operational challenge, there’s no question about it.

“But the state has stood up to that challenge each time and maintained a very strong proportion of 95% of vaccines that have come into the country and have been administered, obviously there’s some that are held back for the second doses.

“So we’ll wait to see what NIAC says, and if there are operational changes that need to be made, we will make them.”

NIAC’s advice came as Ireland began to lift some of its level 5 restrictions.

Monday saw the 5km travel limit relaxed to allow people to travel anywhere within their county, or up to 20km if crossing into another county.

People from two households will be allowed to meet outdoors for social and recreational purposes, but the Government has insisted that private gardens remain off limits.

All schoolchildren are to return to in-class learning from Monday, while construction on housing and essential projects will also resume.

Further easing of restrictions is expected on April 19 and 26.

Monday saw a further 394 cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Ireland. No further deaths linked to the virus were recorded.

The Department of Health said as of 8am there were 227 people with the disease in hospital, 50 of whom were in intensive care.

The five-day moving average of new cases is now 404, while the country’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population stands at 131.9.

Investigation into link between NI death and Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination

Health officials are investigating a possible link between the death of a young patient in Northern Ireland two weeks after they received a first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

The death occurred last month after the patient developed a blood clot on the brain.

The news comes less than 24 hours after the Republic of Ireland decided to limit the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab to those aged 60 and older.

Last week the United Kingdom announced those aged 30 and younger will no longer be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the fear of blood clots.

Medical experts have said developing a blood clot as a result of the vaccine and dying are both incredibly rare and people aged 30 and older in the UK should continue to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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