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AstraZeneca pause confuses experts

Doctors say data about the COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots do not support a stoppage

Vials of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a center in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, on Tuesday Associated Press/Photo by Bob Edme

AstraZeneca pause confuses experts

JAMAICA today became the first country in the Caribbean to receive coronavirus vaccines via the global COVAX program. The World Health Organization said its vaccine rollout remains unaffected even as a growing number of countries, especially in Europe, suspend use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid concerns about blood clots in some people who received it. Doctors and health experts are confused by the suspensions—because the data do not warrant it—and the halts can have long-term consequences. Here’s what the numbers look like worldwide.

JAPAN: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will “push back” against China in a first trip abroad for a Biden delegation that includes Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” Blinken said.

Blinken and Austin are in South Korea today and will meet on Thursday in Alaska for the first time with their Chinese counterparts. The trip by senior officials follows last Friday’s summit where President Joe Biden spoke via video link with the leaders of India, Australia, and Japan, a group known as the Quad that has taken on new significance as a counterweight to China. The leaders pledged to counter China’s dominance in the production of rare-earth metals used in electronics production and to cooperate in global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

AFGHANISTAN: Blinken and Biden are leaning on President Ashraf Ghani to make concessions with the Taliban in pursuit of a peace agreement that requires U.S. troop withdrawal by May 1. In effect, that’s asking the elected leader the United States helped put in power to concede to his enemy, an enemy allied with al-Qaeda planners of 9/11—the same force we drove from power in 2001.

TURKEY: Esmaeil Falahati is an Iranian Christian who sought safety for his family outside the city of Ankara only to find now it’s becoming another dangerous place—my latest on refugees in limbo.

KENYA: Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio has launched programming to Kakuma Refugee Camp, home to 250,000 refugees from 39 countries. In 2001 I visited the camp, which opened 30 years ago as a temporary shelter to African war victims, and found then a sprawling, overcrowded settlement of 77,000 people.

MYANMAR: Like Hong Kong democracy activists, protesters in Myanmar are facing a bloody crackdown—and not backing down. At the International Space Station, the launch of Myanmar’s first satellite is being held up by Japan’s space agency over the military coup and crackdown.

RUSSIA: As opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s return and imprisonment sparked street protests, Russian authorities continued a less noticed effort to silence religious minorities also viewed as threats—WORLD’s latest cover story here.

UNITED STATES: The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz returned to its home base in Bremerton, Wash., after logging a record-breaking 99,000-mile journey in its year at sea. Author and Princeton University campus ministry leader Kori Porter has been named CEO of the U.S. branch of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious freedom advocacy group.

UNITED KINGDOM: All Souls Langham Place has created an online audio library of John Stott’s sermons, going back to 1975. Merry Christmas.

I’M READING Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri.

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine’s first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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