Under-40s could be asked to take alternative jab to Oxford vaccine
Thirtysomethings could be asked to take an alternative Covid jab to AstraZeneca following fears it could be linked to blood clots.
The Government’s independent scientific advisers said a new risk/benefit assessment of the vaccine in different age brackets will be made before the rollout to under 40s begins.
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have already recommended that healthy people under the age of 30 who are at low risk of Covid should not be offered the Oxford jab if a different one is available.
Prof Jeremy Brown, a member of the JCVI, said the age cut off could change.
‘We’re going to start vaccinating phase two healthy adults, starting with the 40 to 50-year-olds, and then we’ll go to the 30 to 40-year-olds,’ he told the Telegraph.
‘When we are approaching that point we’ll need to think about this a little bit more to be absolutely sure at what point in that age cut-off – given the situation we are facing at that time, and any more data that comes through on this rare complication, because more data will come through – then that might alter the age range.’
Prof Brown said any future recommendation on jabs for those in their 30s would depend on Covid levels.
He said the balance would be more likely to tip in favour of continuing to give the AstraZeneca Jab to people in their 30s if infection rates are high, as the chance of severe disease in this age group are about five times higher than among people in their 20s.
However if the virus rates are under control, the balance could tip in favour of an alternative.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has been linked to 79 cases of blood clots and 19 deaths out of the 20 million people who have been given the jab across the UK.
Scientists have repeatedly said that the benefits of getting the vaccine will outweigh any possible risks, but there are fears around the Oxford jab’s affect on younger people, who are less likely to catch Covid-19.
‘If you vaccinate people who are between age 20 and 30 then the actual benefit of the vaccine for those individuals against preventing severe Covid is relatively small because maybe 10 people in a million will actually die of Covid in that group, maybe 20 will end up in intensive care and 30 or 40 will end up in hospital, Prof Brown explained on an interview with Sky News.
‘There is an alternative vaccine which doesn’t seem to be associated with this very rare blood clot and low platelet issue, so it does make sense when the risk benefit is not clear cut to offer a vaccine where that risk benefit is more clear cut in this very young age group of patients.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also sought to maintain confidence in the Oxford vaccine, saying the risk of experiencing a clot was the same as ‘taking a long-haul flight’.
Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the JCVI, said any link with blood clots was a ‘very, very rare, extremely rare safety signal’.
He said that the latest change in the medical advice – that those under 30 should be offered Pfizer or Moderna over AstraZeneca – is unlikely to change.
But he said scientists would be scrutinising the safety data for other age groups which will become ‘more clear’ when the vaccination programme rolls out to Brits in their 30s.
He told the BBC Today programme: ‘I don’t think our guidelines for the [healthy] under 30s will change, but we will certainly evolve the programme according to the epidemiology that we are seeing at the time.’
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