While most of Europe has been very enthusiastic about Covid-19 vaccines and mandates, with comparatively little of the skepticism and resistance experienced in the United States, Finland has joined with Sweden and Denmark in breaking with that trend to limit the usage of the Moderna vaccine in young men.
The halt was announced Thursday by Finnish Health Institute Director Mike Salminen, reported Reuters. The halt order was issued in response to concerns about a rare cardiovascular side effect that was afflicting some younger men.
The study, conducted by Finland, Sweden, and Norway, specifically found that men under 30 were at higher risk of developing myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. The study tied the issue to the Moderna vaccine, and Salminen said that Finland would instead recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for men under 30.
The preliminary findings of the study have been forwarded to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for further examination and debate. The study has not been published or peer-reviewed, however.
Finland is only the most recent of the three countries that participated in the study to stop the use of Moderna for young men. Sweden announced the halt on Wednesday, saying it would not give the Moderna vaccine to anyone of either gender born in 1991 or later, while Denmark is halting the distribution of the Moderna vaccine to anyone under the age of 18, according to Reuters.
The EMA’s safety committee, the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) had tentatively admitted in July that mRNA Covid-19 vaccines (all of them, not just Moderna’s) may be linked to “very rare” cases of myocarditis and pericarditis. However, the committee also stated that these cases occurred in less than 1% of people receiving Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
At the time, the EMA had identified roughly 145 cases of myocarditis among Pfizer vaccine patients and 19 among Moderna patients, though it was not entirely certain whether the myocarditis was because of the vaccines or was an unrelated, concurrent health issue. The EMA declined to recommend any steps to halt the distribution at the time, giving the following statement as part of their press release, regarding the potential risks versus the benefits of being vaccinated against Covid-19:
“EMA confirms that the benefits of all authorised COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh their risks, given the risk of COVID-19 illness and related complications and as scientific evidence shows that they reduce deaths and hospitalisations due to COVID-19.”
PRAC did, however, advise that doctors be aware of the potential link when evaluating the best care plan for prevention of Covid-19 with their patients, and noted that those who did experience cardiovascular symptoms possibly tied to the vaccine tended to show signs within 14 days of initial vaccination.
The controversy over the vaccines is certain to continue, and will only be intensified by this step from northern Europe, especially when combined with a new report indicating the greatly diminished efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine after 6 months.
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