A version of this story appeared in the March 17 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

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After virtually all of western Europe temporarily suspended the use of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, the continent’s top medicines regulator struck out against safety concerns around the shot, saying there is “no indication” that it causes blood clots and that its lifesaving benefits outweigh the risk of any potential side effects.

The backing from Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, came after France, Spain, Germany, Italy and more than a dozen other countries halted use of the vaccine, even as the continent confronts a third wave of the pandemic and faces criticism over sluggish vaccination rollout campaigns.

The actions of European governments have surprised experts and caused a myriad of questions among people who have had or are in line to get the shot, Rob Picheta writes.

But the pervading message from health experts has been one of calm; when placed in context the reported cases of blood clotting are rare and no greater than numbers would be in the general population, while the vaccine has been proven to work in reducing Covid-19 cases.

Coronavirus reinfections are rare, but it’s more common for people 65 and older to get infected more than once, according to a study published Wednesday in the Lancet medical journal.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: I have a high BMI and qualify for the vaccine. Does this mean I am unhealthy?

A: With obesity a factor in Covid-19 vaccine eligibility, many Americans are scrambling to find out their body mass index, or BMI. But experts say the meaning behind those numbers – and how to lower them – isn’t always so clear-cut.

“It’s part of the normal process. This would be happening normally, it’s just that no -one would really know about it because we wouldn’t be in the middle of a pandemic,” Jon Gibbins, director of the Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research at the University of Reading, Gibbins said of the reviews into the vaccine’s safety.

The countries will wait to hear guidance from the EMA that is expected tomorrow but many have expressed a desire to continue the rollout soon.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Trump tells his supporters to get Covid-19 vaccine

Former President Donald Trump, in a nationally televised interview on Tuesday, backed the Covid-19 vaccine, recommending it to Americans who voted for him and may be reluctant to get it.

“I would recommend it and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” Trump told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. “But again,” he continued, “we have our freedoms and we have to live by that and I agree with that also. But it is a great vaccine. It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works.”

The comments – which amount to Trump’s most energetic endorsement of vaccination – come as vaccine hesitancy among Republicans continues to threaten the US path to herd immunity. While 92% of Democrats either have gotten vaccinated or want to get vaccinated, that number plummets to 50% among Republicans, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows.

Moderna begins testing its vaccine in babies and children

The pharmaceutical company Moderna has begun testing its Covid-19 vaccine in children under 12, including infants as young as 6 months old. The clinical trial, called the KidCOVE study, is expected to enroll 6,750 children in the US and Canada.

“This pediatric study will help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a press release.

Moderna is not the only Covid-19 shot currently being tested in children, as the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is also being studied in age groups as young as 12. Johnson & Johnson has announced plans to study the vaccine in adolescents, ages 12 to 18.

Children separated from parents highlight price of Hong Kong’s coronavirus success

When Ariel saw her two young sons isolated in a Hong Kong hospital ward with Covid-19, she broke down. The brothers – age 5 and 1 and both asymptomatic – were wearing vests that were tied to their beds to restrain them. They were covered in dirt and both wearing diapers, even the five-year-old.

Ariel’s family found themselves caught in the crosshairs of Hong Kong’s inflexible but efficient pandemic prevention measures in late February. Though it’s been more than 14 months since the territory identified its first coronavirus case, Hong Kong has shown few signs of easing numerous restrictions.

Covid-19 drove hundreds of Africans out of Guangzhou. A generation of mixed-race children is their legacy

ON OUR RADAR

  • Violence toward Asian Americans has spiked across the US, coinciding with the Covid-19 pandemic. San Francisco police are now increasing patrols following recent assaults.
  • Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged US President Joe Biden to call an emergency coronavirus summit as the country’s daily Covid-19 death toll reached a new record.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s laissez-faire approach to the pandemic appears to be paying off politically.
  • US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Wednesday projected optimism that the fall would bring a school year that looks “more like what it was before Covid,” but stressed that his focus remains on resuming in-person learning this spring.

TOP TIPS

Dublin, Ireland celebrated St. Patrick's Day differently this year, with a drone light show.

St. Patrick’s Day parties are ripe for spreading coronavirus variants. Don’t let that happen, Holly Yan writes.

St. Patrick’s Day was the first major holiday of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, and we’ve learned sobering lessons since then. Young, healthy people who were infected around the celebration last year have suffered long-term complications. And infections have been spread by people with no symptoms.

But this St. Patrick’s Day, Americans have a new challenge: the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants. While parties may happen, infections don’t have to. Here’s what you should know before you think about toasting green beer with strangers.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“As if stepping on [the] scale wasn’t emotionally loaded enough, I had to do it in a waiting room full of people.” – Madeleine Thompson, CNN Audio associate producer

Many states are making people with a certain BMI eligible for vaccines. But because weight carries such a stigma, showing up to an appointment may not be as easy as it sounds. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta hears from a co-worker about her personal experience getting vaccinated, and navigating the complex relationship between weight and health. Listen now.