The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Wednesday that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States during 2020, and it boosted the overall U.S. death toll by nearly 16% from the previous year.
During the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters the pandemic trailed only heart disease and cancer last year, accounting for about 378,000 fatalities, or 11% of all deaths in the country last year.
Walensky said COVID-19 deaths were highest among Hispanic people, and deaths among ethnic and racial minority groups were more than double the death rate of non-Hispanic white people.
Elsewhere Wednesday, European Medicines Agency (EMA) Executive Director Emer Cooke said the organization has found no scientific evidence to support restrictions on using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
She told a virtual news conference from the drug regulator’s headquarters in Denmark that they stand by the statement they made nearly two weeks ago that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh any risks.
The comments come a day after Germany announced it was limiting the vaccine to people 60 years of age and older due to concerns that it may be causing blood clots.
Federal and state health authorities cited nearly three dozen cases of blood clots known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in its decision Tuesday, including nine deaths. The country’s medical regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, said all but two of the cases involved women between the ages of 20 and 63.
Canada, France and Spain have made similar decisions regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine.