The UK’s vaccination rates are the envy of the world, with more than 31 million people now jabbed with a first dose. The situation is far less rosy in the EU with countries hamstrung by supply shortages. Some of the supplies countries remain largely unused thanks to fears over blood clots halting the rollout. Germany has taken the fateful decision to restrict the vaccine to younger groups.
The policy follows reports that younger people may be more at risk of blood clots events following the jab.
In a review of the vaccine earlier this week, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was currently no evidence to suggest a causal link between blood clots and the Oxford jab.
The regulatory authority also insisted the benefits of the vaccine in preventing coronavirus outweigh any possible risks.
It noted that 30 people out of the 18.1 million who had received the Oxford vaccine in the UK had developed blood clots, and seven of those had died, as of 24 March.
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However, Channel 4 News reported on Monday night that the MHRA was considering proposals to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people and a decision could be taken early as Tuesday.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Ferguson said: “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.
“It appears that risk is age-related, it may possibly be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.
“And so the older you are, the less the risk is and also the higher the risk is of Covid so the risk-benefit equation really points very much towards being vaccinated.”
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He added: “I think it becomes slightly more complicated when you get to younger age groups where the risk-benefit equation is more complicated.”
According to Professor Ferguson, the MHRA and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) were considering the potential risk of blood clots from the jab “very urgently”.
The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the JCVI.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “People should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.
“Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
“No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”
It is important to remember that vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the MHRA.
Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through.
The MHRA follows international standards of safety.
Who is currently eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine?
The NHS is currently offering the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus.
Everyone aged 50 and over can currently get the COVID-19 vaccine.
You can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.