• Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Under-30s in the UK will be offered alternative to AstraZeneca vaccine

ByKate McIntosh

Apr 9, 2021
A cartoon of a COVID-19 vaccine, labelled as such.

Due to concerns about a possible link between the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and rare blood clots, under-30s in the UK will now be offered an alternative jab.

The decision has been taken after a review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) concluded that “the evidence of a link with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is stronger but more work is still needed.”

Additionally, people who are at an increased risk of blood clots because of a medical condition should be given the AstraZeneca vaccine only if, following medical consultation, it is decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. 

More than 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered in the UK, and there have been 79 reported cases of blood clots occurring with thrombocytopenia, or low platelet levels.

 Nineteen of those people have died. 

However, as the MHRA noted, a causal link has not been conclusively established. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) released a statement noting that although there was a lot of uncertainty as a result of the low numbers of these events, “the available data do suggest…a slightly higher incidence reported in the younger adult age groups.” 

It maintained that for people who are 30 and over, as well as those of any age with underlying health conditions who are at greater risk if they become infected, “the benefits of prompt vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine far outweigh the risk of adverse events.” 

The JCVI also said that there had been no reports of the blood clots after receiving the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that those who had received one dose to no ill effect should still receive their second, regardless of age. 

Under-30s will instead be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, the latter soon to be rolled out in the UK. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a BBC interview today that “…there is more than enough of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine” for those in the relevant group.

Hancock also reaffirmed that the risk is relatively low.

“The safety system that we have around this vaccine is so sensitive that it can pick up events that are four in a million [the chance of developing a rare brain blood clot] – I’m told this is about the equivalent risk of taking a long-haul flight.”

The UK is far from the first country in Europe to restrict administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine on the basis of age – in France and Germany, for example, the minimum ages are 55 and 60, respectively.

Several countries, including Denmark and the Netherlands, have stopped giving the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether. 

Jeremy, a 25-year-old student who has had one dose of the AstraZeneca jab, told The Student, “I’ll still be very happy to receive my second dose when it’s scheduled and I’m not at all worried about it; after all I’m on other medications right now which are much riskier to have but it’s judged better to have it than not”.

 He pointed out, as have others, that blood clots are a recognised side effect of the contraceptive pill – “and if we’re satisfied with the risk-benefit assessment when talking about the pill then I feel the response with respect to the vaccine might be an overreaction”.

Jeremy also spoke of his concern about the decision undermining confidence in the vaccination programme. 

However, others have suggested that responding quickly and appropriately to reports of potential side effects as the rollout continues could actually be beneficial for public confidence. 

Image: CodeBlue via orinocotribune.com