The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people over the age of 30, the UK medicines regulator has recommended.
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced the decision on Wednesday, amid reports of very rare incidences of blood clotting.
Dr June Raine, Executive Director of the MHRA, told a press conference: “While this is a strong possibility, more work is needed to establish beyond any doubt that the vaccine caused these side effects. “
He said people between the ages of 18 and 29 should be offered an alternative vaccine – either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccines.
This comes moments after a review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) Safety Committee concluded that “unusual blood clots with low blood platelet counts should be listed as very rare side effects” of the drug. vaccine – but that the benefits of the vaccine still far outweighed the risks.
EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke said: “The EMA Medicines Safety Expert Committee (PRAC) confirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the overall prevention of COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects. “
She added: “A plausible explanation for these rare side events is an immune response to the vaccine.”
The EMA said most of the reported blood clots had occurred in women under the age of 60 within two weeks of being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but no specific risk factors had been identified on it. the basis of current evidence.
The MRHA said it had identified 30 cases of rare blood clots out of 18.1 million doses of the vaccine administered until March 24 inclusive.
The news means that the roll-out of the vaccination program could be slowed down considerably as more than a fifth of the UK’s vaccine supply is linked to the Oxford / AstraZeneca injection.
The government has obtained a total of 457 million doses, of which 100 million are from AstraZeneca.
Despite this, the government has re-committed to its promise to offer all adults a COVID-19 vaccination by the summer and the Moderna vaccine is expected to be rolled out around the third week of April.
Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: “Regulators absolutely, very closely scrutinize any unwanted incident through the yellow card system.
“And June Raine, who is the CEO of MHRA, our independent regulator, said last night that if you get the invitation for the vaccine, take that invitation and get the vaccine and be protected.
“At the same time, they are looking at these very rare cases of blood clotting. To put it in perspective, we have performed nearly 20 million vaccinations using the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The two vaccines [Pfizer and AstraZeneca] saved some 6,300 lives between December and the end of February, so it’s important to continue to follow what clinicians, scientists, regulators tell us. And we’ll do exactly what they say. “
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