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Countries limit AstraZeneca vaccine use amid concern over blood clots

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(Reuters) – Some countries are restricting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 while others have resumed inoculations, as investigations into reports of rare, and sometimes severe, blood clots continue.

The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have said the benefits outweigh the risks, but are monitoring the situation.

AstraZeneca said in March its vaccine was 76% effective in preventing symptomatic infections in a U.S. trial, and that studies did not indicate higher risks of clotting.

VACCINE BEING USED, WITH OR WITHOUT RESTRCTIONS

AUSTRALIA:

Will continue its inoculation programme with the shot despite a blood clotting case reported on April 2, health officials said on April 3.

AUSTRIA:

Resumed use.

BULGARIA:

Resumed inoculations from March 19.

CYPRUS:

Cyprus resumed inoculations on March 19.

CANADA:

To pause offering vaccine to people aged under 55 and require a new analysis of the shot’s benefits and risks based on age and gender.

FRANCE:

Approved resumed use of the vaccine on March 19, but said it should only be given to people aged 55 and over.

FINLAND:

Resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine from March 29, but will only give it to people aged 65 and over.

GEORGIA:

Has limited the use of the vaccine after a nurse died of anaphylactic shock, and vaccinations will continue only in full-fledged medical centres, news agency TASS reported on March 19.

GERMANY:

From March 31, Germany limited use of the shot to people over 60 and high-priority groups, following further reports of a rare brain blood disorder. On April 1, Germany’s vaccine commission recommended that people under 60 who have had a first shot of AstraZeneca’s vaccine should receive a different product for their second dose.

ICELAND:

Resumed use on March 25 after suspending it on March 11.

INDONESIA:

Resumed using the vaccine on March 22 but warned against the use of the vaccine in people with a low blood platelet count.

IRELAND:

Resumed use after EMA recommendation.

ITALY:

Resumed use on March 19, and Italians who decline to be inoculated with it will be given an alternative later.

LATVIA:

Said would restart administering the shots from March 19.

LITHUANIA:

Restarted use on March 19, currently for over 65-year-olds only.

NETHERLANDS:

Currently using the vaccine only for over 60s, either at a doctors’ surgery or by a doctor at nursing homes.

NORTH MACEDONIA:

Health Minister Venko Filipce said on March 31 that AstraZeneca shots would be limited to people aged over 60 as a precautionary measure.

ROMANIA:

Resumed use after the EMA assessment after temporarily stopping vaccinating people with one batch of the vaccine on March 11.

SOUTH KOREA:

President Moon Jae-in received the vaccine on March 23 ahead of an overseas trip, as the country inoculates senior citizens and health workers.

SPAIN:

Spain said on March 30 it would use the vaccine for people aged 55-65, and a day later said it would extend the vaccination to essential workers aged over 65.

SWEDEN:

Resumed use of the vaccine on March 25 for people aged 65 and older, but restrictions are in place for Swedes under 65.

THAILAND:

Began use on March 15, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha the first to be inoculated, after delaying rollout the week before.

USE SUSPENDED

CAMEROON:

Suspended administration of the vaccine it was scheduled to receive on March 20 as part of the global vaccines sharing scheme COVAX, the health ministry said.

DENMARK:

Will prolong its suspension of the shot by three weeks pending further investigations after its two-week pause ended on March 25. A local survey indicated that one in three Danes would decline to get the shot.

NORWAY:

Norway will delay a decision over the use of the vaccine, authorities said on March 26, with a decision expected by April 15.

 

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka, Yadarisa Shabong, Manas Mishra, Vishwadha Chander, Amruta Khandekar and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Josephine Mason and Alison Williams)

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Canada’s manufacturers ask for federal help as Montreal dockworkers stage partial-strike

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MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canada‘s manufacturers on Monday asked the federal government to curb a brewing labor dispute after dockworkers at the country’s second largest port said they will work less this week.

Unionized dockworkers, who are in talks for a new contract since 2018, will hold a partial strike starting Tuesday, by refusing all overtime outside of their normal day shifts, along with weekend work, they said in a statement on Monday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Quebec’s 1,125 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected a March offer from the Maritime Employers Association.

The uncertainty caused by the labour dispute has led to an 11% drop in March container volume at the Montreal port on an annual basis, even as other eastern ports in North America made gains, the Maritime Employers Association said.

The move will cause delays in a 24-hour industry, the association said.

“Some manufacturers have had to redirect their containers to the Port of Halifax, incurring millions in additional costs every week,” said Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME).

While the government strongly believes a negotiated agreement is the best option for all parties, “we are actively examining all options as the situation evolves,” a spokesman for Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi said.

Last summer’s stoppage of work cost wholesalers C$600 million ($478 million) in sales over a two-month period, Statistics Canada estimates.

($1 = 1.2563 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Canada scraps export permits for drone technology to Turkey, complains to Ankara

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OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada on Monday scrapped export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces fighting Armenia in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said.

Turkey, which like Canada is a member of NATO, is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces gained territory in the enclave after six weeks of fighting.

“This use was not consistent with Canadian foreign policy, nor end-use assurances given by Turkey,” Garneau said in a statement, adding he had raised his concerns with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier in the day.

Ottawa suspended the permits last October so it could review allegations that Azeri drones used in the conflict had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc.

In a statement, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa said: “We expect our NATO allies to avoid unconstructive steps that will negatively affect our bilateral relations and undermine alliance solidarity.”

Earlier on Monday, Turkey said Cavusoglu had urged Canada to review the defense industry restrictions.

The parts under embargo include camera systems for Baykar armed drones. Export licenses were suspended in 2019 during Turkish military activities in Syria. Restrictions were then eased, but reimposed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan jumped sixfold last year. Sales of drones and other military equipment rose to $77 million in September alone before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, data showed.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Cooney)

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Investigation finds Suncor’s Colorado refinery meets environmental permits

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By Liz Hampton

DENVER (Reuters) – A Colorado refinery owned by Canadian firm Suncor Energy Inc meets required environmental permits and is adequately funded, according to an investigation released on Monday into a series of emissions violations at the facility between 2017 and 2019.

The 98,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the Denver suburb of Commerce City, Colorado, reached a $9-million settlement with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) March 2020 to resolve air pollution violations that occurred since 2017. That settlement also addressed an incident in December 2019 that released refinery materials onto a nearby school.

As part of the settlement, Suncor was required to use a third party to conduct an independent investigation into the violations and spend up to $5 million to implement recommendations from the investigation.

Consulting firm Kearney’s investigation found the facility met environmental permit requirements, but also pinpointed areas for improvement, including personnel training and systems upgrades, some of which was already underway.

“We need to improve our performance and improve the trust people have in us,” Donald Austin, vice president of the Commerce City refinery said in an interview, adding that the refinery had already undertaken some of the recommendations from the investigation.

In mid-April, Suncor will begin a turnaround at the facility that includes an upgrade to a gasoline-producing fluid catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) at Plant 1 of the facility. That turnaround is anticipated to be complete in June 2021.

Suncor last year completed a similar upgrade of an automatic shutdown system for the FCCU at the refinery’s Plant 2.

By 2023, the company will also install an additional control unit, upgraded instrumentation, automated shutdown valves and new hydraulic pressure units in Plant 2.

Together, those upgrades will cost approximately $12 million, of which roughly $10 million is dedicated to Plant 2 upgrades, Suncor said on Monday.

 

(Reporting by Liz Hampton; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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