Death, critical illness in Denmark draw more scrutiny for AstraZeneca vaccine: COVID-19 live updates

One person has died and another was critically ill with blood clots and cerebral hemorrhage Sunday after receiving the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, authorities in Denmark say.

The two developed severe symptoms within 14 days after vaccination, the Capital Region of Denmark, which operates public hospitals, told the Ekstra Bladet newspaper. Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in several European countries earlier this month amid reports of blood clots in a small number of patients.

“We prioritize reports of suspected serious side effects such as these,” Tanja Erichsen, a director at the Danish Medicines Agency, said on Twitter. “We are in the process of dealing with the two specific cases.”

Last week, the European Medicines Agency determined the vaccine was safe and effective. Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director, said the benefits in protecting people from COVID-19 “outweigh the possible risks.” Germany, France, Italy and Spain were among nations saying they would resume using the vaccine.

Also in the news:

► The first-round game between No. 7 seed Oregon and No. 10 seed Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA men’s tournament was called off three hours before it was to begin Saturday night because of COVID-19 concerns.

► The U.S. has met President Joe Biden’s goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses about six weeks ahead of schedule. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the target of vaccinating 100 million Americans had been reached Friday.

► The European Union’s executive arm is increasing its pressure on pharmaceutical companies to speed up their vaccine delivery to the continent as virus numbers are rising again in many member countries.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 541,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 122.9 million cases and 2.7 million deaths. More than 156.7 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 121.4 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

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Vaccine rollout: Slower might work better

The first three months of the vaccine rollout suggest faster is not necessarily better. A new analysis found states such as South Carolina, Florida and Missouri that raced ahead of others to offer the vaccine to ever-larger groups of people have vaccinated smaller shares of their population than those that moved more slowly and methodically, such as Hawaii and Connecticut. The explanation may be that the rapid expansion of eligibility caused a surge in demand too big for some states to handle, spreading confusion, frustration and resignation among many people.

“The infrastructure just wasn’t ready. It kind of backfired,” said Dr. Rebecca Wurtz, an infectious disease physician and health data specialist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. “In the rush to satisfy everyone, governors satisfied few and frustrated many.”

Health experts: Crowds at NCAA Tournament could fuel surge

Indianapolis celebrated the city’s largest event since the pandemic began as it hosted the opening round of the NCAA tournament this weekend, but revelry surrounding the games is causing consternation among public health experts. Most people said they felt safe, especially at the games themselves, where facilities are restricted to 25% of their normal capacity or less. The busy downtown streets drew vendors who have seen little business over the past year, from pop-up clothing retailers to a troop of Girl Scouts selling cookies.

But gatherings worried public health experts, who fear they could undermine the rigorous health and safety protocols the NCAA and Indianapolis officials have put in place to keep the tournament safe under unprecedented conditions.

Read the full story.

– Tony Cook and Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star

CDC report: Most states struggle to vaccinate vulnerable communities

Vulnerable counties tend to have lower COVID-19 vaccination rates, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released last week. The study looked at vaccine administration data for more than 49 million U.S. residents from December 2020 to March 1 and found that, on average, less vulnerable counties had a vaccination rate 2.5 percentage points higher than counties with high social vulnerability.

Researchers found the largest disparities were in counties that ranked high in socioeconomic vulnerability, such as high rates of poverty or unemployment.

– Nada Hassanein, USA TODAY

Michigan pizzeria owner in jail for violating COVID orders

A western Michigan restaurant owner was arrested and hauled to jail for her persistent refusal to comply with orders and restrictions tied to the coronavirus. State investigators said Marlena Pavlos-Hackney had allowed indoor dining at Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria when it was banned, wasn’t enforcing mask rules and was ignoring capacity limits. Her food license was suspended Jan. 20, but the business remained open. She will remain in jail until she pays $7,500 and authorities confirm that the pizzeria is closed, a judge said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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