Concerns about patients developing post-jab blood clots have made Denmark, Norway and Iceland to temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.
But the manufacturer and Europe’s medicines watchdog have insisted that the vaccine was safe.
Denmark was first to announce its suspension, “following reports of serious cases of blood clots” among people who had received the vaccine, the country’s Health Authority said in a statement.
It stressed the move was precautionary, and that “it has not been determined, at the time being, that there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”
As of March 9, 22 cases of blood clots had been reported among more than three million people vaccinated in the European Economic Area, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.
Austria announced on Monday that it had suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a 49-year-old nurse died of “severe blood coagulation problems” days after receiving an anti-Covid shot.
Four other European countries — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg — have also suspended the use of vaccines from this batch, which was sent to 17 European countries and consisted of one million jabs. Denmark however suspended the use of all of its AstraZeneca supply, as did Iceland and Norway in subsequent announcements on Thursday citing similar concerns.
On Wednesday, the EMA said a preliminary probe showed that the batch of AstraZeneca vaccines used in Austria was likely not to blame for the nurse’s death.
“This is a super-cautious approach based on some isolated reports in Europe,” said Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“The risk and benefit balance is still very much in favour of the vaccine,” he said.
AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company which developed the vaccine with Oxford University, defended the safety of its product.
“The safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied in phase III clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirms the vaccine has been generally well tolerated,” a spokesman for the group told AFP.
Britain, whose widely-praised vaccine rollout has been largely underpinned by the AstraZeneca jab, also defended it as “both safe and effective”.
The Danish suspension, which will be reviewed after two weeks, is expected to slow down the country’s vaccination campaign.
Denmark now expects to have its entire adult population vaccinated by mid-August instead of early July, the health authority said.
“We are of course saddened by this news,” said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
Frederiksen, who has pushed for the production of more vaccines and has formed a controversial alliance with Austria and Israel to do so, defended the Danish health authorities’ decision.
“There is always a risk associated with vaccines,” she told reporters. “Things have gone well in Denmark, but there are some risks linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine that need to be examined more closely. That seems to me to be the right way to proceed.”
Danish Health Authority director Soren Brostrom stressed that “we have not terminated the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we are just pausing its use”.
“There is broad documentation proving that the vaccine is both safe and efficient,” Brostrom said.
“But both we and the Danish Medicines Agency must act on information about possible serious side effects, both in Denmark and in other European countries.”
Denmark said one person had died after receiving the vaccine. The EMA has launched an investigation into that death. In the Scandinavian country of 5.8 million, around 25 per cent of those who have received a first dose were given the AstraZeneca jab. In total, 3.8 per cent of the population has received two doses of vaccine and 13.4 per cent at least one dose.
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How To Identify Fake Friends
Most people surround themselves with fake friends who are killing them subtly and are smiling with them. You need to identify the genuineness of your so- called friend before he/she destroys you.
Identifying a fake friend can involve noticing certain behavioral patterns:
1. Lack of Support: They might be absent or unsupportive during your challenging times, showing disinterest or avoiding your needs.
2. One-sided Relationships: They tend to benefit more from the friendship without reciprocating care or effort.
3. Gossip and Betrayal: Fake friends might gossip about you behind your back or betray your trust.
4. Inconsistent Behavior: Their actions and words may not align consistently, making it hard to trust them.
5. Conditional Friendship: They’re around only when it suits their interests or when they need something from you.
6. Manipulative or Self-centered:They may manipulate situations for their benefit or constantly talk about themselves without considering your feelings or experiences.
Being mindful of these traits can help distinguish between genuine friends and those who may not have your best interests at heart. Trusting your instincts and observing behaviors over time often reveals the authenticity of a friendship.
Miniaturized Ultrasound Scanner Could Help Detect Breast Cancer Earlier
A wearable ultrasound scanner that could help detect breast cancer earlier – and thus improve survival rates – has been developed by a research team headed up at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women, with around 2.3 million new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2020. When caught in its early stages, the survival rate is nearly 100%, but this drops to 25% among patients whose tumours are detected at a late stage. Regular self-checks and mammograms can help secure positive outcomes.
However, in the UK, an estimated 39% of women do not regularly check their breasts for the signs of cancer – which can include shape changes, lumps or swelling.
On the screening front, notes surgical oncologist Tolga Ozmen of the Massachusetts General Hospital, “One of the main obstacles in imaging and early detection is the commute that people have to make to an imaging centre.” Yet even when people do undergo regular mammograms, breast tumours can still sneak up between screenings. These “interval cancers” make up 20–30% of all breast cancer cases, and their tumours tend to be more aggressive than those found during routine scans.
Galvanized by the death of her aunt – who was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer at 49, despite regular check-ups – MIT engineer Canan Dagdeviren set about designing an easy-to-use device that could enable more frequent and even at-home screening.
“My goal is to target the people who are most likely to develop interval cancer,” explains Dagdeviren. “With more frequent screening, our goal is to increase the survival rate to up to 98%.”
To realize this vision, Dagdeviren, Ozmen and colleagues developed a miniaturized ultrasound scanner using a novel piezoelectric material fashioned into a phased array. The scanner fits inside a small tracker that’s inserted into a flexible, 3D-printed patch with a honeycomb-like pattern. The tracker can be moved along a path in the patch to provide imaging from six different positions, together affording coverage of the entire breast.
The whole set-up is worn by attaching the patch, via magnets, to a special bra containing openings where the scanner can contact the skin. The researchers note that the device, which they describe in Science Advances, does not require any special expertise to operate.
“We changed the form factor of the ultrasound technology so that it can be used in your home. It’s portable and easy to use, and provides real-time, user-friendly monitoring of breast tissue,” Dagdeviren explains.
To demonstrate the scanner’s potential, the team tested it on a 71-year-old patient with a known history of breast cysts. The wearable enabled the researchers to detect the cysts, which were as small as 3 mm in diameter, the same scale as early-stage tumours. Furthermore, the researchers report, the device achieved a resolution comparable to that of traditional ultrasound systems used in medical imaging centres and could image tissue to a depth of 8 cm.
At present, the scanner has to be connected to a traditional imaging system for its data to be visualized. However, the researchers are developing a miniaturized version – about the size of a smartphone – to add to their scanner. Other developments being planned include the integration of artificial intelligence-powered diagnostics and adaptation of the ultrasound technology for use on other parts of the body.
Sheng Xu – a materials scientist from the University of California San Diego who was not involved in the present study, but is also working on conformable ultrasound patch designs – called the device “impressive”. He adds: “The tracker in the bra could help standardize the ultrasound imaging procedure and minimize operator dependency, which plagues conventional ultrasound technology.”
Researchers demonstrate the positioning of the wearable BraCoil
Wearable coil vest could change the game in breast MRI
“This would be of great benefit to individuals and health services alike,” agrees biophysicist Jeff Bamber of the Institute of Cancer Research, who says that in the UK, pressure on imaging services in hospitals has helped generate waiting lists that are millions of patients long. Bamber notes that the low profile needed for wearables makes it difficult to build ultrasound transducer arrays without compromising on image quality.
He adds: “This group has incorporated single crystal piezoelectric array technology with advanced doping of the crystal, as used in modern conventional ultrasound probes. The result is good electromechanical coupling, good sensitivity and wide bandwidth, enabling them to achieve relatively good image quality to practically useful imaging depths.”
“With further development to produce images of diagnostic quality, the potential for use in home monitoring would be considerable,” Bamber tells Physics World.
. Physics World
Israeli Doctors Reattach Boy’s Decapotated Head
Israeli doctors have performed a miraculous feat of reattaching a boy’s head after he suffered internal decapitation in a road accident.
According to The Times of Israel, a 12-year-old Palestinian named Suleiman Hassan, suffered a serious injury in which his skull got detached from the top vertebrae of his spine- officially known as a bilateral atlanto occipital joint dislocation.
Hassan was riding his bike when he was hit by a car. He was brought to Hadassah Medical Center and was immediately operated upon via surgery in the trauma unit.
Dr. Ohad Einav, an orthopedic specialist led the operation which took several hours. He informed that the doctors used “new plates and fixations in the damaged area.”
“Our ability to save the child was thanks to our knowledge and the most innovative technology in the operating room,” said Einav as quoted by New York Post.
As per the doctors, Hassan’s head was “almost completely detached from the base of his neck” in what is known as an internal decapitation. The operation actually happened in June but doctors revealed about it only now.
Meanwhile, Hassan was discharged with a cervical splint and doctors will continue to monitor his recovery.
“The fact that such a child has no neurological deficits or sensory or motor dysfunction and that he is functioning normally and walking without an aid after such a long process is no small thing,” said Einav.
“This is not a common surgery at all, and especially not on children and teens. A surgeon needs knowledge and experience to do this,” he explained.
Israel’s TPS news agency quoted Hassan’s father as thanking the doctors: “Bless you all. Thanks to you, he regained his life even when the odds were low and the danger was obvious.”
“What saved him were professionalism, technology and quick decision-making by the trauma and orthopedics team,” said the father.
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