Europe’s Covid vaccine fiasco continues

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Barcelona

Just when it appeared as if Europe’s much-criticized COVID vaccination rollout might finally be getting on track, new cases of the virus have skyrocketed, curfews and lockdowns have been reinstated and questions about the safety of some vaccines have led to an atmosphere of restive uncertainty across the continent.

Andrew Hussey, a history professor in Paris — where schools are closed, a 7 p.m. curfew is in effect and new cases of COVID last week were exceeding 40,000 a day — told Yahoo News that the vaccine rollout has been pitiful.

A month ago, his doctor contacted the 57-year-old saying that, due to underlying health issues, he’d been fast-tracked for a COVID shot.

But when he arrived at the office, the vaccine cupboard was bare. Told to go to a public vaccination center, he waited in line for an hour, finding supplies gone there too.

A week later, nothing had changed and he still hasn’t been able to book an appointment.

The vaccine rollout in France has been badly managed, he said, and Parisians “are very angry and frustrated.”

Guy Maruani, 75, a retired psychiatrist also living in Paris, received an AstraZeneca shot, but confirmed that scheduling an appointment has proven extremely difficult for many residents.

Between vaccine frustrations and the ongoing lockdown restrictions — which include shuttered restaurants, cafes and bars — Maruani said “The French are fed up,” and if the current four-week lockdown doesn’t lift in May as scheduled, he fears “another revolution.”

Compounding Europe’s vaccine supply issues is the fact that the AstraZeneca shot — use of which was temporarily suspended last month by a dozen countries out of fears it might be linked to blood clots — is once again in limbo.

This week, the chairman of the team evaluating the vaccine for the European Medicines Agency, the regulatory arm that two weeks ago re-approved use in the Europe Union, confirmed a clear association between the vaccine and a rare blood clot disorder that can be deadly.

On Wednesday, however, the EMA walked back that news, stressing again that the benefits outweigh the risks.

After studying reactions of the 23 million people in Europe who received the AstraZeneca vaccine as of mid-March, the agency said 84 had developed blood clots resulting in 18 deaths.

Those numbers were enough, however, to convince the British health agency to issue recommendations Wednesday to stop using the vaccine for those under 30 years of age, and for AstraZeneca to put the brakes on clinical studies of the vaccine on children.—AFP