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Norway, Lithuania swap J&J, Pfizer vaccines to speed up inoculation

OSLO, July 21 (Reuters) - Norway on Wednesday signed a deal to swap 100,000 doses of its unused shots made by Johnson & Johnson with Lithuania in return for an equal number of doses from Pfizer in a move to speed up inoculations.

Norway, which is not using the J&J shot, known as Janssen, in its national vaccination programme due to concerns about rare blood clotting issues, will lend 100,000 doses to Lithuania, the government said.

In return, Lithuania will loan 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Norway, with the delivery scheduled for Thursday.

“I am happy about this deal, which will contribute to both Norway and Lithuania being able to speed up vaccinations,” prime minister Erna Solberg said in a statement.

Demand in Lithuania is high for the single-dose Janssen vaccine, Solberg added.

This marks Norway’s second vaccine loan deal after the country struck an agreement in April with Sweden and Iceland to lend them 216,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which it has dropped from its inoculation programme due to clotting concerns.

A number of countries have restricted or suspended use of the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines after Europe confirmed possible links to rare blood clots.

The EU drug regulator has said the benefits of using the vaccines outweigh the risks.

As of Wednesday, 3.2 million, or 75.4%, of Norwegians older than 18 years had received a first vaccine dose, with 39.4% having received two doses, official data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health showed.

Reporting by Nora Buli Editing by Josephine Mason and Jane Merriman

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