Britain’s vaccine regulator could stop younger people from having AstraZeneca’s coronavirus jab as soon as today over concerns about rare cases of blood clots.
The UK’s MHRA announced on Friday it has seen 30 brain clot cases in 18.1million AstraZeneca-vaccinated people – around one in every 600,000 people (0.00017 per cent).
But there are fears that while the benefit of elderly people being vaccinated far outweighs the risk, use of the Oxford-made jab in younger people is ‘more complicated’.
If a ban on under 30s having the jab is confirmed by the MHRA, this would be the first restriction of its kind in the UK and could slow the next stage of the rollout.
Two senior sources told Channel 4 News that while the data is still unclear there are growing arguments to justify offering younger people – below the age of 30 at the very least – a different vaccine.
Both sources however emphasised their support for the Oxford jab and their concerns that any restriction of its rollout could damage public confidence in it.
It comes after ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson said the AstraZeneca jab may not be suitable for young people if its link to blood clots is proven to be true.
He said older and middle-aged groups should ‘very much’ get the vaccine because the threat of coronavirus far outweighs the risk of the clots, thought to affect just one in 600,000 people given the jab (0.00017 per cent).
But the SAGE epidemiologist, 53, who himself has had AstraZeneca’s jab, said the balance of risk is ‘slightly more complicated’ when younger people who are less vulnerable to the virus are considered. The risk of blood clots from the vaccine may prove to be higher in younger age groups.
British scientists say the risk of dying of Covid for 25 to 44-year-olds is 0.04 per cent, and 0.01 per cent for people aged 15 to 24. For comparison, the rate is up to 6 per cent in elderly age groups.
It comes after several European countries – including Germany, Spain and Norway – suspended the British-made vaccine after dozens of vaccinated people suffered a rare brain clot, known as CVST, or cerebral venous sinus thrombosis.
The UK’s medical regulator has seen 30 similar cases, of which seven people have died. But it insists its analysis has still not found any evidence the vaccine is causing the clots, a finding which has also been echoed by the EU’s medical watchdog.
Professor Ferguson told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: ‘In terms of the data at the moment, there is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated, particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘But it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts. It appears that risk is age related, it may possibly be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.
‘And so the older you are, the less the risk is and also the higher the risk is of Covid so the risk-benefit equation really points very much towards being vaccinated.
‘I think it becomes slightly more complicated when you get to younger age groups where the risk-benefit equation is more complicated.’