POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Lux moves to give people choice of AstraZeneca vaccine



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People aged 30 to 54 ready to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine will be able to register via an online platform. Photo: SIP / Emmanuel Claude 

People aged 30 to 54 will be able to volunteer to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine through an online registration system, prime minister Xavier Bettel announced on Friday, with the country sticking to most its coronavirus restrictions for the time being. 

The European Medicines Agency on 7 April concluded that a rare type of blood clot should be listed as a possible side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This came after it reviewed 62 cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and 24 cases of splanchnic vein thrombosis, 18 of which were fatal, out of 25m people who received the vaccine.

“It remains a vaccine that is authorised,” Bettel (DP) said during a press conference, and the EMA has given no specific age or sex recommendation on its use.

The CSMI, Luxembourg's infectious diseases council, however said a precautionary principle should be applied and that the jab should not be used in people under the age of 54 unless they are in a vulnerable category and at greater risk of severe illness from covid-19.

"This brings our government in a difficult situation," Bettel said. "We know that vaccination is the most efficient weapon in the fight against this pandemic."

People who have already received the first jab of the Vaxzevria vaccine will also receive their second. But starting next week, people aged 30 to 54 will have to sign up to receive the AstraZeneca jab. Health minister Paulette Lenert is due to present more details on this change in the vaccination strategy.

Up until now, people arriving for a vaccination appointment are only told on site which vaccine they are set to receive with no choice available. Anyone who refuses the jab can register for a waiting list but with no guarantee that a different vaccine will be administered the next time around.

"All vaccinations that can be administered are important," Bettel said, emphasising several times that it would be irresponsible to let the doses go to waste. The prime minister also said he would register on the platform.

Around 90,000 people would miss out on receiving their vaccination over the coming months if Luxembourg would stop using the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Around 1-2% of people on any given day refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine, Bettel said.

May review

Coronavirus restrictions will largely remain in place until 15 May, Bettel and social security minister Romain Schneider (LSAP) said on 16 April. The current set of rules expires on 25 April and must be renewed by parliament.

"What was feared--that we would see an exponential increase in cases--hasn't happened," said Schneider, replacing Lenert who has been on sick leave since the end of March. "But we can't say we're out of the woods." 

Schneider warned that the return of holidaymakers after the Easter break could lead to a surge in infections. In addition, the presence of new virus variants from Brazil is being closely monitored.

As a result, there are only minimal changes on the horizon for the sports and cultural sectors where more people will be able to train, rehearse and play together.

The 11pm to 6am curfew, the ban on drinking alcohol in public and limits on private and public gatherings will remain in force. However, these rules will be up for review by 15 May provided that infection and hospitalisation rates remain stable.

“I don’t want to give people false hope,” Bettel said, adding that the next round of rules should nonetheless offer a sense of perspective.