Under-30s in the UK are to be offered an alternative coronavirus vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab as a precautionary measure.
The recommendation comes after a review by the UK drugs regulator found that by the end of March 79 people had suffered rare blood clots after vaccination – 19 of whom had died.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have made it clear that the balance of risk is still very much in favour of vaccination.
Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said:“ Over 37 million doses of vaccines against COVID-19 have now been administered in the UK, saving thousands of lives through the biggest vaccination programme that has ever taken place in the UK.
“No effective medicine or vaccine is without risk. We continually monitor safety during widespread use of any vaccine. This is to ensure vaccines are performing as expected, to identify any new side effects that may arise, and to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
“The public’s safety is always at the forefront of our minds and we take every report of a suspected side effect very seriously indeed. We thoroughly analyse each and every report as we receive it and although the number of reports of Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST) and other thromboembolic events has increased over the last week, so has the overall number of vaccinations administered, therefore these blood clots remain extremely rare and unlikely to occur.
“We ask anyone who suspects they have experienced a side effect linked with their COVID-19 vaccine to report it to the Coronavirus Yellow Card website.
“It is still vitally important that people come forward for their vaccination when invited to do so.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said: “Safety remains our number one priority. Based on the available data and evidence, JCVI has advised that it is preferable for adults aged under 30 with no underlying conditions to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where available. This weighs up the risks of being seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 against the extremely small risk of a serious adverse event.
“The COVID-19 vaccines have already saved thousands of lives and the benefit for the majority of the population is clear – if you are offered a vaccine, you should take it.”
A Government spokesperson said:
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives.
“As the MHRA – the UK’s independent regulator – and the JCVI have said, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults.
“Everybody who has already had a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should receive a second dose of the same brand, irrespective of age, except for the very small number of people who experienced blood clots with low platelet counts from their first vaccination.
“When people are called forward, they should get their jab. Vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic and provide strong protection against Covid-19.
“We are very grateful for the work of our world-leading regulator and our expert advisors as they continue to address this issue.
“More than 37 million jabs overall have already been administered, and we are on track to offer jabs to all over 50s by 15 April and all adults by the end of July.”
JCVI state ‘all those who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should continue to be offered a second dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, irrespective of age.
By 31 March 20.2 million doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca had been given in the UK meaning the overall risk of these blood clots is approximately 4 people in a million who receive the vaccine.
Vaccines are the best way to protect people from COVID-19 and have already saved thousands of lives. Everyone should continue to get their vaccination when asked to do so unless specifically advised otherwise.
Public Health England has produced an information leaflet about the vaccine and blood clotting which can be read here.
If you do have any concerns, please speak to your GP or health practitioner.