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Germany

Let Them Have AstraZeneca! The Negligence Of Europe’s Leaders

As elsewhere in Europe, Germany's decision to suspend the use of the vaccine makes no logical sense when you weigh the risks and benefits in concrete figures.

Line at a vaccination center in Dortmund, Germany
Line at a vaccination center in Dortmund, Germany
Justus Haucap*

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is a major blow for Germany"s vaccination program. Over the past few weeks, AstraZeneca made up around 40% of vaccines administered in the country.

The vaccination program was already rolling out very slowly, and now the brakes are being slammed on. The promise of every adult being offered at least a first dose of the vaccine before the end of summer is beginning to look quite doubtful indeed.

Even if Germany starts offering the AstraZeneca vaccine again soon, the population may still be reluctant to receive it. But vaccines are our only way out of the pandemic. The collateral damage of suspending use of this specific vaccine could be huge.

The vaccination program was already rolling out very slowly, and now the brakes are being slammed on.

The decision to halt all use of the AstraZeneca vaccine will prove to be a grave mistake, with serious consequences. So far in Germany, there have been seven reported cases of blood clots in the brain identified in patients who had received the vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reported 41 cases of blood clots among the more than five million people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Even if this number is higher than it should be, the risk is still only 0.0008%.

Many other medicines come with significantly higher risks. If every German citizen received the AstraZeneca vaccine — which won't be the case — we would expect to see at most 650 people experiencing complications. If 30 to 40% of the population received it, it would be between 200 and 260 cases.

Photo: Frank Hoermann/Sven Simon/dpa/ZUMA

The risk of unvaccinated people contracting coronavirus and becoming seriously ill is far higher. In the past seven days alone, there have been 110,000 new infections reported in Germany.

If only 1% of infections are fatal, that would still be more than 1,000 people — and that's only one week's worth of infections. With the threat of a third wave fast approaching, it's unthinkable to allow these very low risks to slow down the vaccination program.

There's no reason to make everyone wait.

To salvage what we can, the German government should now make it possible for anyone who wishes to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine to do so. I personally would be first in line.

Anyone who would prefer to wait for a different vaccine and run the risk of being infected with coronavirus can do so. But there's no reason to make everyone wait. In fact, it's negligent, given the risk of a third wave.

Without the AstraZeneca vaccine, we may see fewer blood clots, but we will certainly see many more deaths from coronavirus, to say nothing of the continuing restrictions imposed on our basic freedoms and everyday life.

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Ideas

García Márquez And Truth: How Journalism Fed The Novelist's Fantasy

In his early journalistic writings, the Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez showed he had an eye for factual details, in which he found the absurdity and 'magic' that would in time be the stuff and style of his fiction.

Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez reads his book

J. D. Torres Duarte

BOGOTÁ — In short stories written in the 1940s and early 50s and later compiled in Eyes of a Blue Dog, the late Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia's Nobel Prize-winning novelist, shows he is as yet a young writer, with a style and subjects that can be atypical.

Stylistically, García Márquez came into his own in the celebrated One Hundred Years of Solitude. Until then both his style and substance took an erratic course: touching the brevity of film scripts in Nobody Writes to the Colonel, technical experimentation in Leaf Storm, the anecdotal short novel in In Evil Hour or exploring politics in Big Mama's Funeral. Throughout, the skills he displayed were rather of a precocious juggler.

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