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Don’t mention the war… April 15, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

The Guardian stable has taken an odd tack during the pandemic. Not quite in the same league as the Irish Times which has sometimes seemed to revel in contrarianism, but offered a soft version of its own (numerous pieces on the negative impact of restrictions on a range of areas – child poverty, mental health, developing nations – with no strategies to address these within the context of the pandemic is one example of same, but there are others). Add to that pile this curious piece by the science and environment editor for the Observerh on AstraZeneca.

It has been a disquieting week for those concerned about the lifting of Covid restrictions. Numbers of cases and deaths may be declining but the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to cases of rare blood clots and has been suspended for use in younger people in Germany and the Netherlands is a disturbing development. The AstraZeneca jab is the prime hope we have of clearing Britain of this disease and is now, once again, under hostile scrutiny. Not for the first time, this vaccine has become enmeshed in geopolitics and its usefulness questioned. It is a grim story.


Such vacillation is absurd and harmful. Public confidence in vaccines will be crucial in extricating the world from its Covid nightmare. The signals sent by Germany – and the Netherlands and many other European nations – are worrying. In the UK, it has triggered fears among senior public health officials that growing numbers of younger people, particularly women who have raised risks of developing these blood clots, may shun the AstraZeneca jab.


It is the one approved vaccine that can be easily shipped and does not need complicated refrigeration. But if its safety is constantly undermined by individual national regulators across Europe, developing countries will be hesitant to use it. Why should they accept a vaccine at which western society turns up its nose?

And just to be clear on the European and EU focus in the following paragraph this is made explicit:

It might be tempting to indulge in a bout of vaccine schadenfreude. Once derided for its initial Covid responses – late lockdowns, poor test-and-trace programmes – the UK has triumphed with its vaccine rollout programme while the EU has floundered. But as Covid continues to spread across Europe, Britain’s borders will have to remain closed. As the slogan goes: nobody is safe until everyone is safe. It’s trite but right and that is why we need all the vaccines we can get.

There’s an element of truth to this. And yet, this is not the whole story, one will search in vain for the names of other countries in the mix. For instance, the very same week the story appears Canada restricted the use of AZ for those in younger cohorts due to the issue of blood clots. And as pertinent, the US still has not authorised the vaccine for use there. These can’t easily be placed at the door of Europe, indeed the US was raising question over data from AZ only a week or two back. Which makes the framing of this as an exclusively European (and implicitly expedient EU) response problematic.

Someone put it to me recently that AZ was ‘rough’ but effective. That seems about right. But that roughness and the manner in which AZ has attempted to communicate about the vaccine has been self-defeating from the off (as this somewhat more even-handed piece from the Guardian noted a week or two back). At a minimum the complaint that the company over-promised and under-delivered appears a reasonable one, as is sense that the company handled the contract issue with the UK government and the EU respectively in curiously different ways. Small wonder that as time has progressed and the situation become so sensitive even a cursory examination of the record seems to throw up some unlovely aspects of that.

Which makes articles like the one quoted from above so frustrating. Arguing that the vaccine has become enmeshed in geopolitics is only a partial reading, and to attempt to present this as just EU/European politics is even more partial again.


1. Liberius - April 15, 2021

This Der Spiegel article is a good summary of the various issues which the Oxford-AstaZeneca vaccine has faced, in particular these two paragraphs are interesting in terms of what the differences are between the various manufacturers when it comes to communications strategy and what that means for the global vaccination effort.

Experts are on the verge of despair. Nina Gatter, a vaccinologist from the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, says it is unacceptable that Vaxzevria is now viewed by many patients as a second-class vaccine. “We have to get out of the corona catastrophe, and that is only possible if we vaccinate with all the vaccines that we have.”

At the same time, she is critical of AstraZeneca, arguing that the company hasn’t expressed enough concern about people’s doubts. BioNTech/Pfizer offers video training for vaccinators, publishes informational leaflets in various languages, runs an online chat service for questions and has set up hotlines, but Gatter has found herself googling to find answers to questions about AstraZeneca.


Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - April 15, 2021

Great link, that’s insane how bad AZ is in terms of transparency. Just appalling.


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