Syringes are filled with Astrazeneca vaccine at the pharmacy.
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LONDON – People under 40 in the UK will be offered an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, as concerns over links to rare blood clots continue to weigh on its rollout.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Professor Wei Shen Lim, chairman of the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), said the authority had updated its advice for adults to under 40 years old.
“Building on our previous advice, we are now advising unvaccinated adults between the ages of 30 and 39, who do not have an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe Covid-19. , to preferably be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine when possible, ”he said, adding that this would only be the case when“ no substantial delay in vaccination could occur ”.
He noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine was easier to transport and store than some of the replacement vaccines approved for use, which would influence how the new advice for those under 40 would be applied.
“In some settings it may be the only practical vaccine to offer and in these circumstances it should indeed be the preferred vaccine,” he explained, adding that the advice was also conditioned on good control of the infection with Covid-19, good availability of alternative vaccines. and a strong rollout of vaccination in the UK.
Rare blood clots
A very small number of people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine have suffered from blood clots.
The disease, described by health authorities as “extremely rare”, is characterized by blood clots accompanied by low platelet counts.
As of April 28, the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had received 242 reports of major blood clots associated with a low platelet count occurring after a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
There have been 10.5 cases of blood clots with a low platelet count per million first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the drugs regulator said in its latest report on the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine. Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said on Friday that for the second doses, the ratio had fallen to one in a million.
The death rate from rare blood clots was 20%.
In early April, the UK said people under 30 would be offered an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved for use in the country in late December.
Benefits vs Risks
Raine stressed during Friday’s press conference that the authority had not changed its approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine because the benefits continued to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.
“The balance of benefits and risks is very favorable for the older age groups, but it is more finely balanced for the younger ones,” she said.
According to the MHRA report – which was updated on Thursday – there had been a higher incidence of these blood clots in young adults. There were also more reports of blood clots occurring in women, although officials noted that this has not been seen in all age groups and “the difference remains small.”
An estimated 22.6 million first doses and 5.9 million second doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine had been administered in the UK until April 28.
Medicines regulatory authorities in the UK and the EU identified possible links between the vaccine and rare blood clots last month. Officials at the European Medicines Agency said most cases had occurred in women under the age of 60 within two weeks of the vaccine.
The World Health Organization and the International Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis have all said that the benefits of administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.
Reported links to a rare nerve disorder
The European Medicines Agency’s safety committee said on Friday it was analyzing data on cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) – a rare disease affecting the nervous system – after inoculation of the Covid vaccine – 19 from AstraZeneca.
GBS causes inflammation of the nerves and can lead to pain, numbness, weak muscles, and difficulty walking.
The regulator said its safety committee asked AstraZeneca for more detailed data on the cases that were reported after the vaccination.
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.