UNDER 30s will no longer be offered a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine after evidence of a link with blood clots has become stronger.
But millions of people who have already had their first shot will be wondering if it is safe to get their second one.
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Officials say it is imperative that they do.
UK medicine regulators at the MHRA said that those who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should still get their second dose.
At a briefing this afternoon, experts said only those who suffered a rare blood clot after the first dose should not get vaccinated – which is an extremely small number of people.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: "It remains vitally important that people who are called back for their second dose come for it, and all adults in the UK come forward for vaccination when they are offered it."
Earlier today the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "it’s very important for everybody to continue to get your second jab when you’re asked to come forward for your turn".
He said the Government believes the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is “safe”.
It comes as:
- The MHRA has said the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine won't be given to under-30s amid blood clot fears.
- European regulators said the AstraZeneca vaccine IS linked to blood clots but it's "very rare" and jab benefits outweigh risks.
- The UK's daily Covid death toll has dropped 45 PER CENT in a month, as 45 more fatalities are recorded today.
Benefits outweigh risks
The conclusions of the MHRA today are that a link between the Oxford-created AstraZeneca vaccine and 79 cases of rare blood clots is "firming up" – but more work is still needed.
Overall the benefits of the vaccine in preventing severe disease and death from Covid continue to outweigh any risks.
However, the balance is finer for younger age groups, whose risk of severe Covid disease is much lower.
Therefore, those under 30 will be offered an alternative vaccine.
It came after Europe's drugs watchdog said the clots should be listed as "very rare side-effects" of the jab but that people should continue to take it.
Even if the vaccine is proven to have caused a small number of blood clots, it is regarded as extremely rare.
The MHRA said the risk was four people in every million vaccinated, based on UK reports.
It had only seen blood clots in those given a first dose.
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicines, said it was unclear if people could suffer blood clots after two doses.
Because the condition is so rare – and only five million people in the UK have had both doses – the MHRA "can't make a conclusion". However, it will be "monitored closely".
What are the symptoms of rare blood clots linked with the AstraZeneca vaccine?
The MHRA said as a precautionary measure, there are some specific side effects to look out for after an AZ vaccine.
Anyone who has the following symptoms four days or more after vaccination is advised to seek prompt medical advice:
- a new onset of severe or persistent headache, blurred vision, confusion or seizures
- develop shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain,
- unusual skin bruising or pinpoint round spots beyond the injection site
Those being invited for the second dose will be people who are elderly or middle aged, have a medical condition or work in health and social care.
Prof Adam Finn, a Government adviser on vaccines, said for these people, “the risks of Covid-19 are real”.
He added: “In short, if you are currently being offered a dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, your chances of remaining alive and well will go up if you take the vaccine and will go down if you don’t.”
Anyone who has had the first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be invited for their second within 12 weeks.
It means those who received their first dose in mid-January will be being invited for the second now.
On April 3, the milestone of five million second doses was reached, meaning nearly one in 10 adults in the UK are fully vaccinated.
The PM said at the time: “We’ve reached another milestone in our vaccination programme with over five million people now having had their second jab.
“I urge everyone to take up their second dose as soon as they are offered it.”
Amid the concern over serious AZ jab side effects, regulators and scientists alike have stressed that the vaccine is “safe and effective”.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises ministers, said he was “not worried one little bit” about headlines around the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Speaking in a personal capacity, he told LBC radio today: “I’ll take (it) myself, I’m 53, my risk of death from Covid is about one in 13,000, for me it’s a no-brainer, I need to have the vaccine.
“This vaccine is safe. What do I mean by safe? You can look right, look left, look right again, cross a road, it’s safe to cross because you don’t see any cars (but) you can trip, you can stumble.
“Nothing is risk-free, but is the vaccine safe? I would say yes.”
Former MHRA chief Professor Sir Kent Woods also told LBC radio: “Covid itself – the infection itself – is known to be associated with a substantial increased risk of blood clots of various kinds.
“At a time when the population has got lots of Covid going around, it’s very difficult to know what the actual background rate of these clotting events is without the vaccine.
“We can say I think that if there is a connection, it’s a very, very rare one.”
One dose of the AZ jab has been found to be extremely effective, at 76 per cent.
But this increases to 82 per cent after the second dose, 12 weeks later, according to a study by Oxford University published in The Lancet.
Scientists also found that in people who have received only dose, cases were 67 per cent lower.
The clinical trials showed that overall, the Oxford jab was 62 per cent effective.
But no-one who received the Oxford vaccine was hospitalised or became seriously ill due to Covid – the lower efficacy result is due to the trial using various dosing regimens.
Real-world data using the UK’s vaccination programme has shown the true impact the AZ jab is having on the outbreak.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed a single dose of either the Oxford or Pfizer vaccine can slash hospitalisations from Covid in older people by 80 per cent.
"In fact, the detailed data show that the protection that you get from catching Covid 35 days after a first jab is even slightly better for the Oxford jab than for Pfizer, albeit both results are clearly very strong", he told the No10 briefing on March 1.
He added: "Getting the AstraZeneca jab and Pfizer jab could save your life."
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