Austria to continue using AstraZeneca vaccine

Austria will continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite several neighbouring countries including Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Slovenia this week saying they would suspend vaccinations from the manufacturer.

Austria to continue using AstraZeneca vaccine
REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo/File Photo

Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said on Tuesday that Austria will wait for the opinion of the European Medicines Agency before deciding whether or not to discontinue the jab. 

Germany, along with Italy, France, Spain and Slovenia on Monday said they would suspend the administrations of the vaccine as a precautionary measure due to concerns about adverse reactions from the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Other countries including Portugal, Cyprus and Latvia have also suspended the use of the vaccine. 

Austria’s National Vaccination Committee is in favour of continuing the use of the vaccine. 

At a press conference, Anschober said there is currently no evidence of a link between the adverse medical conditions observed and the use of the vaccine. 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday that Germany had recorded seven cases of ‘brain thrombosis’ in people who had recently taken the vaccine. 

Anschober said however there was no evidence that the adverse health reactions were a result of the vaccine, saying they “can also occur in unvaccinated people”.

The EMA is expected to make a decision regarding AstraZeneca on Tuesday. 

“All information about side effects comes together at the EMA,” Anschober said, emphasising that Austria sought to remain compliant with EU authorities. 

“National individual courses are neither effective nor trust-building in this context.”

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”