People under the age of 40 in the U.K. will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca
COVID-19 vaccine as a precautionary measure, following concerns of rare blood clots linked to the shot, several news media outlets reported on Thursday.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a panel of experts that advises the government, is expected to recommend on Friday that healthy people aged between 30 and 39 are instead offered the vaccine jointly developed by biotech BioNTech
and drug company Pfizer
or the one made by biotech Moderna
out of “an abundance of caution”, The Independent newspaper reported, citing a government source.
Those in their 30s will still be able to get the AstraZeneca shot if waiting for an alternative causes a significant delay in being vaccinated, The Times newspaper reported.
More than 34 million people in the U.K have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine, while 15 million have had both doses of the vaccine, according to the latest government figures, and the government said it remains on track to offer a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
In April, the U.K. drug regulator — the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) — stressed the benefits outweigh the risks for the “vast majority” of people, and recommended no age restrictions on the vaccine. However, it said that for young people it was more “finely balanced” prompting the JCVI to recommend that adults under 30 be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where possible.
The European Medicines Agency has said that the risks of COVID-19 outweigh those of blood clots, particularly for older age groups.
Denmark has permanently stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine following its possible link to very rare cases of blood clots, while several other European countries have restricted the use of the vaccine to older people. Denmark has also excluded the COVID-19 shot made by healthcare company Johnson & Johnson
from its immunization program, over a potential link to a rare but serious form of blood clot.
On Thursday, the MHRA said that there was some evidence that rare blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine occurred more in women than in men, but cautioned that the difference in incidence was small. “There is now some evidence that the reported incidence rate is higher in females compared to men although this is not seen across all age groups and the difference remains small,” the MHRA said in its weekly update on the clotting issues.
The latest weekly figures from the MHRA showed that the case incidence of the rare clots and low platelet levels was 10.5 per million doses, compared with 9.3 per million last week.
The MHRA said that the case incidence of the rare clots and low platelet levels was 10.5 per million doses, compared with 9.3 per million last week. There were 242 cases of the clots, with six occurring after second doses. Up to April 28 there had been 22.6 million first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered in the U.K., with 5.9 million second doses.
“The advice remains that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks in the majority of people,” the MHRA said.