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Scientist says Oxford Covid vaccine for under-50s should be paused

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Dr Maggie Wearmouth suggested ‘perhaps slowing things down’ with the rollout ‘until we’re absolutely certain’ (Picture: Getty Images / Reuters)

A top Government scientist has suggested temporarily pausing the rollout of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine to the under-50s while the risk of blood clots is investigated.

Dr Maggie Wearmouth, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), indicated ‘perhaps slowing things down’ with the rollout ‘until we’re absolutely certain’ might be wise.

Speaking in a personal capacity, she told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The issue is about safety and public confidence.

‘We don’t want to cover anything up that we feel that the public should be knowing.

‘We’re not here to blindly follow targets or due dates. We will do what is necessary.’

It comes as the JCVI was set to deliver its recommendations for the second stage of the rollout for those aged 18 to 49 – but this could now be revised before being submitted to the health secretary.

‘What we don’t want to do is give advice to the Secretary of State and then have to change it,’ she said.

‘We would rather give slow, steady, prudent advice, which we could then slow down and review. We shouldn’t discourage people who are eligible, but we shouldn’t encourage them either.’

A top Government scientist has suggested temporarily pausing the rollout of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine to the under-50s (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

It comes after a senior official from the European Medicines Agency yesterday claimed there is a link between the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots.

The University of Oxford then announced it is pausing its trial of the vaccine in teenagers and children ‘as a precaution’.

Some 30 cases of rare blood clots – including seven deaths – have been identified out of more than 18 million doses of the jab administered across the UK.

Dr Wearmouth said the JCVI has still not seen the ‘risk breakdown’ of the cases, which show whether the patients had any pre-existing conditions and their ages.

She added: ‘We don’t want people to lose confidence and the vaccine to stay in fridges. But we don’t want people to feel they have been falsely reassured either.’

Scientists do not want people to lose confidence in the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine (Picture: Getty Images / Science Photo Libra)

Another JCVI member, Professor Adam Finn, said the situation must be ‘addressed urgently’.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Newsnight: ‘It’s clear that everyone is taking these cases enormously seriously, we do need to get to the bottom of this.

‘We are walking a tightrope here between the need for speed but also the need for clarity and scientific certainty about what’s going on and of course the public wants to know, so very important issues that need to be addressed urgently.’

The number of first daily Covid-19 vaccines given out in the UK fell to the lowest number on record this week after the public was pre-warned of supply issues.

A total of 40,744 people received their first jab on Easter Monday – the smallest daily figure since numbers started being published on January 10.

But a third jab is being rolled out across the UK this week as people living in Wales will receive the first doses of the Moderna vaccine today.

The injection was developed in the US and the UK has bought 17 million doses of it – enough for 8.5 million people.

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