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Covid vaccine: Under 30s to be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca jab


The MHRA said it identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events, out of 18.1 million doses of the jab (Picture: AFP/AP)

The UK regulator has suggested giving the under 30s an alternative vaccine to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

The move follows concerns around rare form of blood clots, linked to a small number of people who have had the Oxford coronavirus vaccine.

It also comes after controversy around a host of European countries pausing their rollouts of the jab and conflicting advice over it on the continent. This afternoon, a review by the European Medicines Agency’s safety committee concluded that ‘unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects’.

Scientists have repeatedly said that the benefits of getting the vaccine will outweigh any possible risks, but there are fears around this specific jab’s affect on younger people, who are less at risk from Covid-19.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) decision only affects the Oxford jab in the UK. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been administered to Brits for months while the Moderna jab was rolled out this morning.

It said there were still huge benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 and serious disease – but, due to a very small number of blood clots in younger people, said those under the age of 30 should be offered Pfizer or Moderna instead.

Anyone who experienced certain symptoms after their first jab was also told not to get a second dose of the Oxford jab.

Under 30s are likely to be offered another jab (Picture: Reuters)

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks for the ‘vast majority’ of people, after blood clotting cases were detected in an ‘extremely small’ number of people.

She said: ‘By March 31, over 20 million doses having been given, we have had 79 case reports up to and including that date.

‘All 79 cases occurred after the first dose. Of these 79 cases, 19 people have sadly died. These cases occurred in 51 women and 28 men aged from 18 to 79 years. And from these reports the risk of this type of rare blood clot is about 4 people in a million who receive the vaccine.

‘Three out of the 19 were under 30 years. 14 of the 19 were of the cerebral venous sinus thrombosis with low platelets and five were other kinds of thrombosis in major veins.’

Dr Raine added: ‘The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people but it is more finely balanced for the younger people and we at the MHRA are advising that this evolving evidence should be taken into account when considering how the vaccine is used.’

Vaccines are not currently available to healthy under 30s unless they are in other priority groups. The last vaccine priority group (group 12) are those aged 18 – 29.

Trials are ongoing ahead of possibly vaccinating children, but no date has yet been set.

But it has already been given to some people under 30, notably health and social care workers and staff working in care homes.

On Monday, ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson said the development of blood clots in people who had been given the vaccine raised fresh questions over whether it was safe for young people.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today progreamme: ‘In terms of the data at the moment, there is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated, particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine but it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts.’

Professor Ferguson added that the risk appeared to be age and possibly sex related.

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As of Monday, the UK had recorded more than 31.5 million first doses and nearly 5.5 million second doses.

The Netherlands and Germany recently became the latest countries to suspend the jab for under 60s.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would carefully follow the advice from the MHRA and JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) but does not believe he will have to alter the schedule for easing the lockdown.

During a visit to Cornwall, he told broadcasters: ‘I think the crucial thing on this is to listen to what the scientists, and the doctors, the medical experts, have to say.

‘The MHRA is meeting, the JCVI is meeting, they’ll be setting out the position and we will get on with rolling out the vaccine and obviously we’ll follow very carefully what they have to say.

‘I don’t think anything that I have seen leads me to suppose that we will have to change the road map or deviate from the road map in any way.’

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency’s Executive director Emer Cooke told a Brussels press briefing that the Pharmacovigilance and Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) had conducted ‘a very in-depth analysis’.

She said they ‘concluded that the reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine.’

This is a breaking story – more to follow.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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MORE : Oxford vaccine uptake steady despite ‘causal link’ to blood clots

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