Britons under 30 should not take AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine due to mounting evidence linking it to rare blood clots, UK health chiefs ruled today.
In a major blow to the UK’s vaccination rollout, the Government’s vaccine advisory group is recommending healthy people aged 19 to 29 be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna jabs instead when the programme moves to younger groups in the coming months.
A review by the drugs watchdog the MHRA found that by the end of March 79 out of 20million Britons vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine had suffered deadly blood clots in the brain or arteries, a rate of about one in 250,000. Nineteen of the cases died and three were under the age of 30.
The MHRA insisted there was still no concrete proof that the British-made vaccine is causing the clots, but admitted the link was getting firmer. The review prompted the Government’s vaccine advisory group, the JCVI, to recommend that people aged 18 to 29 be given an alternative jab.
Britons over that age are still being advised to get the vaccine because the risk of Covid far outweighs the chance of developing the extremely rare conditions. But the JCVI said the balance of benefits and risks was ‘more finely balanced’ in younger people.
A review by the European Medicines Agency’s safety committee concluded today that ‘unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects’ of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. But the regulator is not restricting its use in any age group.
Of the 79 people who suffered clots after getting the AstraZenca vaccine, a total of 19 people have died, although it has not been established what the cause was in every case.
The 79 cases occurred in 51 women and 28 men, aged from 18 to 79. Of the 19 who died, three were under the age of 30, the MHRA said.
Some 14 cases of the 19 were cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), a specific type of clot that prevents blood from draining from the brain. The other five cases were thrombosis in the arteries.
The MHRA has concluded that the balance of risk for the vaccine is ‘very favourable for older people’ but more finely balanced for younger groups.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government believes the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is ‘safe’, telling reporters on a visit to Cornwall: ‘But the crucial thing for everybody is to listen to what the scientists, the medical experts have to say later on today.’
He added on the vaccination programme: ‘You can really start to see some of the benefits of that – it’s pretty clear that the decline in the number of deaths, the decline in the number of hospitalisations is being fuelled, is being assisted, the steepness of that decline is being helped by the rollout of the vaccines so it’s very important for everybody to continue to get your second jab when you’re asked to come forward for your turn.’
More than 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have now been given in the UK, saving an estimated 6,000 lives.
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