science

Choice of Covid vaccines to be offered to Britons under 40 as well as under 30


A choice of Covid vaccines is to be extended from the under-30s to anyone up to the age of 40, after a recommendation by the government’s advisory body to allow more people to opt out of the AstraZeneca shot, which has been linked to rare cases of blood clots, it has emerged.

Very small numbers of people have suffered from blood clots in the veins and the brain, in combination with low platelets. Investigations by UK and European regulators have linked these events to the AstraZeneca vaccine, while in the United States cases have been reported following the Johnson & Johnson jab, which is made in a similar way.

There have been over 200 cases in the UK, according to Dr Sue Pavord, who is on the haematologists’ working group that is monitoring the cases in the UK, at a Royal Society of Medicine event on Thursday – but that is among many millions of doses of vaccine.

However, those affected tend to be younger people, even though relatively few of the youngest adults have yet been vaccinated. “We’re seeing it affecting quite young ages so the median age of our cases is actually 49, which is relatively young,” she said.

Pavord said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), which collects data on side-effects of drugs and vaccines, was keeping an eye on developments.

“I think it’s very concerning, this disease in young people who are perhaps less at risk of Covid infection itself and certainly of being hospitalised with that,” she said. “And that’s why I think the MHRA is really keeping an eye on the cases, and they are looking at age-based incidences of this condition compared with the numbers vaccinated and comparing that with statistical modelling of Covid-19 infection and fatalities per age group. It may well be that they increase the age cutoff.”

Informed by the MHRA data, the expert advisory group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) appears to have already made the decision to allow not just the under-30s but anyone up to the age of 40 to choose an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca’s, according to the Telegraph, which cites political sources. Choices will only be offered where supplies of alternatives are available, however.

“Because prevalence of Covid is low and given the strength of the programme, that means we’re in a position to act with an abundance of caution and offer a different vaccine to the younger groups,” the source is said to have told the newspaper.

The discovery of cases of blood clots apparently linked to the vaccination caused consternation in Europe, where some countries have suspended the vaccine altogether while others have limited its use to older people.

But the European Medicines Agency as well as the MHRA have said the risks of Covid far outweigh those of blood clots, particularly for older age groups.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson reiterated that position.

“Over 50 million vaccines have now been administered, providing millions of people with protection against Covid-19 and saving thousands of lives,” the spokesperson said.

“The position of our independent medicines regulator, the MHRA, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) continues to be that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults.”



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