Sweden suspends Moderna vaccine for those 30 and under

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, said they follow the situation closely and act quickly to ensure that vaccinations against COVID-19 are always as safe as possible and at the same time provide effective protection” against the disease. (AP)
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Updated 06 October 2021

Sweden suspends Moderna vaccine for those 30 and under

  • The reason for the pausing is “signals of an increased risk of side effects such as inflammation of the heart muscle or the pericardium”
  • Sweden’s chief epidemiologist said they “follow the situation closely and act quickly to ensure that vaccinations against COVID-19 are always as safe as possible”

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Swedish health authorities on Wednesday suspended the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for those ages 30 and under, saying the move was done out of precaution.
The reason for the pausing is “signals of an increased risk of side effects such as inflammation of the heart muscle or the pericardium” — the double-walled sac containing the heart and the roots of the main vessels, Sweden’s Public Health Agency said in a statement. “The risk of being affected is very small.”
Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, said they “follow the situation closely and act quickly to ensure that vaccinations against COVID-19 are always as safe as possible and at the same time provide effective protection” against the disease.
In July, the European Medicines Agency recommended authorizing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorized for people under 18.
Moderna’s vaccine was given the green light for use in anyone 18 and over across the 27-nation European Union in January. It has also been licensed in countries including Britain, Canada and the US, but so far its use hasn’t been extended to children. To date, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the only one approved for children under 18 in Europe and North America.
Hundreds of millions of Moderna doses already have been administered to adults. In a study of more than 3,700 children ages 12 to 17, the vaccine triggered the same signs of immune protection, and no COVID-19 diagnoses arose in the vaccinated group compared with four cases among those given dummy shots.
Sore arms, headache and fatigue were the most common side effects in the young vaccine recipients, the same ones as for adults.
US and European regulators caution, however, that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear linked to a rare reaction in teenagers and young adults — chest pain and heart inflammation.
The Swedish health authorities said that the heart symptoms “usually go away on their own,” but they must be assessed by a doctor. The conditions are most common among young men, in connection with, for example, viral infections such as COVID-19. In 2019, approximately 300 people under the age of 30 were treated in hospital with myocarditis.
Data point to an increased incidence also in connection with vaccination against COVID-19, mainly in adolescents and young adults and mainly in boys and men.
New preliminary Nordic analyzes indicate that the connection is especially clear when it comes to Moderna’s vaccine, especially after the second dose, the agency said.
“The increase in risk is seen within four weeks after the vaccination, mainly within the first two weeks,” it said.
The Swedish agency said the vaccine from Pfizer is recommended for these age groups instead. Its decision to suspend the Moderna vaccine is valid until Dec. 1.
In Denmark, people under the age of 18 won’t be offered the Moderna vaccine out of precaution, the Danish Health Authority said Wednesday. It said that data, collected from four Nordic countries, show that there is a suspicion of an increased risk of heart inflammation when vaccinated with Moderna shots, although the number of cases of heart inflammation remains very low.
The preliminary data from the Nordic study have been sent to the European Medicines Agency’s adverse reaction committee and will now be assessed.
The study was conducted by Denmark’s Statens Serum Institute — a government agency that maps the spread of the coronavirus in the country — the Medical Products Agency in Sweden, the National Institute of Public Health in Norway and the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in Finland. The final results were expected in about a month, the Danish official said.
In Denmark, children and young people ages 12-17 have primarily been invited to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech.
“Based on the precautionary principle, we will in future only invite children and young people to receive this vaccine, not least in view of the fact that it is for this vaccine that the largest amount of data from use exists for children and young people, especially from the USA and Israel, said Bolette Soeborg of the government health agency.


Hiroshima attack flame offered for Pearl Harbor memorial

Updated 6 sec ago

Hiroshima attack flame offered for Pearl Harbor memorial

  • The “flame of peace” is said to have been taken from the smoldering ruins of Hiroshima after the world’s first nuclear attack
  • December 8 will mark 80 years since the Pearl Harbor attack
TOKYO: The family of a famed Hiroshima atomic bomb victim is fundraising to take a flame burning since the wartime attack to Pearl Harbor to light a peace monument, they said Friday.
The “flame of peace” is said to have been taken from the smoldering ruins of Hiroshima after the world’s first nuclear attack. It was kept alive first in a private home before being moved to a peace tower in Japan’s Fukuoka in 1968.
Now, the family of Sadako Sasaki, who died at 12 of radiation-induced leukaemia a decade after the attack, wants the flame to be taken to the site of the deadly Japanese attack to promote peace.
“We want this plan to be a symbol of peace after Japan and the United States, once enemies, have overcome their hatred,” Sasaki’s brother Masahiro Sasaki told AFP.
A majority of Americans “still support the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and their reaction to our calls for ‘no more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki’ is ‘you attacked Pearl Harbor,’ but we have to overcome the hatred,” the 80-year-old said.
He is soliciting private donations in Japan and the US to transport the flame next summer, and are discussing a site for the monument with authorities in Hawaii.
“We’re hoping that it will be at the memorial” built over the remains of the USS Arizona, which sank during the attack, he said.
The “flame of peace” has been taken abroad before including to the Vatican in 2019 when atomic bomb survivors were granted an audience with the Pope.
Sadako Sasaki is widely remembered for having folded one thousand paper cranes before dying on October 25, 1955, after a long battle with leukaemia.
She set out to fold the cranes while in hospital, after hearing a tradition that doing so would make a wish come true.
Her brother Masahiro, also an atomic bomb survivor, and her nephew Yuji have used her story to educate people globally about the dangers of war.
In 2012, they donated one of Sasaki’s paper cranes to the memorial built over the remains of the Arizona.
December 8 will mark 80 years since the Pearl Harbor attack, which killed more than 2,400 Americans and opened the war between Japan and the US.
Around 140,000 people died in the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, a toll that includes those who survived the explosion but died soon after from radiation exposure.
Three days later the US dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing about 74,000 people and leading to the end of World War II.

Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of omicron variant currently on mainland France

Updated 53 min 25 sec ago

Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of omicron variant currently on mainland France

PARIS: The French Health Ministry said there were currently nine confirmed cases of the new omicron coronavirus variant on mainland France, which, according to the government’s top scientific adviser, could become dominant strain of the virus in the country by the end of January.


Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

Updated 03 December 2021

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

  • The 19-year-old woman was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated
  • Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has detected its first case of the omicron coronavirus variant in a foreign student who was quarantined after arrival from South Africa two weeks ago, its health minister said on Friday.
Authorities had re-tested earlier positive samples after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced omicron as a variant of concern on Nov. 24, minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
The 19-year-old woman, who was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated, had tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Malaysia, via Singapore, and was quarantined for 10 days before being released on Nov. 29, Khairy said.
Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative.
Authorities, however, have asked the student along with eight close contacts to undergo further testing after her earlier test samples were confirmed to be the new variant, Khairy added.
An increasing number of countries are reporting cases of the omicron variant, which the WHO has said carries a very high risk of causing surges of infection.
Neighbouring Singapore confirmed two imported cases on Thursday.
This week, Malaysia temporarily banned the entry of travelers from eight southern African countries that have reported the presence of the variant or are considered high-risk.
On Friday, Khairy said Malaysia would immediately imposed further restrictions, including additional tests for vaccinated travelers from Singapore, who are allowed to enter Malaysia without quarantine.


Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

Updated 03 December 2021

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

  • A police spokeswoman said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related

PARIS: A man dressed like a ninja attacked and wounded two policewomen with a sword in Cherbourg in northwestern France on Thursday before being shot and captured, a police spokeswoman said.
She said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related.
She said the attacker had stolen a vehicle and caused an accident, after which he assaulted two policewomen who had been called to the scene, wounding one in the face and the other in the chin.
The assailant — dressed in black in the style of traditional Japanese ninja fighters — was shot three times by the officers and was flown to hospital by helicopter in serious condition.
The attack happened around 3:45 p.m. (1445 GMT) near a gas station of the Leclerc supermarket chain.
The name and nationality of the attacker were not immediately known.


Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

Updated 02 December 2021

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

  • Measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded
  • “The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity”

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that people who aren’t vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential stores, cultural and recreational venues.
And parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections that again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period.
Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which are more likely to be serious in those who haven’t been vaccinated.
“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity.”
She said officials also agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.
Merkel herself backed the most contentious proposal of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee.
If passed, it could take effect as early as February, Merkel said, adding that she would have voted in favor of the measure if she were still a member of parliament.
About 68.7 percent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75 percent the government is aiming for.
There have been large protests against pandemic measures in the past in Germany and the vaccine mandate is likely to be opposed by a minority, though opinion polls show most Germans are in favor.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a center-left coalition next week, has also backed a general vaccine mandate, but favors letting lawmakers vote on the issue according to their personal conscience rather than party lines.
“If we had a higher vaccination rate, we wouldn’t be discussing this now,”he said.
The rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and the arrival of the new omicron variant have prompted warnings from scientists and doctors that medical services in the country could become overstretched in the coming weeks unless drastic action is taken. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have already transferred patients to other parts of Germany because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Agreeing what measures to take has been complicated by Germany’s political structure — with the 16 states responsible for many of the regulations — and the ongoing transition at the federal level.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.
To reduce the pressure on hospitals over the festive period, the sale of fireworks traditionally set off during New Year’s in Germany will be banned. Each year, hospitals treat hundreds of people with serious injuries because of mishandled fireworks.
The new measures will take effect once Germany’s 16 states incorporate them into existing rules, likely in the coming days.