Rare AstraZeneca vaccine blood clot 'side effect' will not stop roadmap, PM says

7 April 2021, 17:16 | Updated: 7 April 2021, 22:11

By Will Taylor

A "course correction" which will see under 30s offered alternative vaccines to AstraZeneca's jab will not affect the roadmap out of lockdown, Boris Johnson has said.

The move comes amid ongoing studies into a link to blood clots, which the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of the jab.

However, it confirmed the very low risk did not outweigh the benefits the vaccine gives to fighting Covid-19 and evidence shows it is overwhelmingly safe.

Mr Johnson, who has spent this week defending the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, said: “I think the crucial thing on this is to listen to what the scientists, and the doctors, the medical experts, have to say.

"The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) is meeting, the JCVI is meeting, they'll be setting out the position and we will get on with rolling out the vaccine and obviously we'll follow very carefully what they have to say.

Read more: Under-30s to be offered alternative to Oxford/AstraZeneca jab

Boris Johnson has said the change to the UK's approach to the AstraZeneca vaccine will not alter the roadmap out of lockdown.
Boris Johnson has said the change to the UK's approach to the AstraZeneca vaccine will not alter the roadmap out of lockdown. Picture: PA

"I don't think anything that I have seen leads me to suppose that we will have to change the roadmap or deviate from the roadmap in any way."

In the UK, people aged between 18 and 29 who do not have an underlying health condition will be offered either the Pfizer-BioNTech jab or the Moderna vaccine over Oxford-AstraZeneca’s wherever possible.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, described the move as a "course correction" but stressed side effects are "vanishingly rare".

Anyone aged over 29 who had the jab should get their second dose when offered.

Read more: Former head of UK vaccines regulator says 'no reservations' about AstraZeneca jab

Read more: When will under 30s be vaccinated?

The move follows a risk-benefit assessment, given that Covid-19 affects younger people less than the elderly.

The EMA listed symptoms including shortness of breath, chest pain and swelling in the leg, which patients should seek immediate medical help over if they experience any after being vaccinated.

It added that most of the blood clot cases occurred in women under 60 two weeks after they were jabbed, and has suggested it came from an immune response, though no definite cause has been identified.

Further studies will take place but both the MHRA and EMA have stressed the vaccine is safe.

AstraZeneca said: "Neither agency identified any risk factors, such as age or gender, or a definite cause for these extremely rare events.

"However, they came to the view that these events have a possible link to the vaccine and requested they be listed as an extremely rare potential side effect.

"Overall, both of these reviews reaffirmed the vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of COVID-19 and that these benefits continue to far outweigh the risks.

"AstraZeneca has been actively collaborating with the regulators to implement these changes to the product information and is already working to understand the individual cases, epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events."

The World Health Organisation said a blood clots link was plausible but unconfirmed.