Healthy adults under 30 should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine if one is available in their area, due to concerns about extremely rare blood clots, the UK’s vaccine regulator has said.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments on immunisation, said it “currently advises that it is preferable for adults aged <30 years without underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, to be offered an alternative COVID-19 vaccine, if available.”
Meanwhile a review by the European Medical Agency (EMA), the EU drug regulator, has concluded that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as a very rare side effect of the vaccine. The EMA did not conclude that age and gender were clear risk factors in the side effects.
The advice comes amid concern around extremely rare incidences of blood clots experienced by people who have been given the vaccine.
The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received 79 UK reports of blood clotting cases alongside low levels of platelets following the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine among 20 million people, up to and including the 31st of March. 51 cases occurred in women and 28 in men, but more women have received the AstraZeneca vaccine than men. 19 of those people died.
The JCVI said data suggests that blood clots are more frequent among young adults.
Those who have already received their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine will still be encouraged to take their second dose when invited.
The move comes after a trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine among British children was paused on Tuesday amid ongoing investigations.
Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said: “Over 37 million doses of vaccines against COVID-19 have now been administered in the UK, saving thousands of lives through the biggest vaccination programme that has ever taken place in the UK.
“No effective medicine or vaccine is without risk. We continually monitor safety during widespread use of any vaccine. This is to ensure vaccines are performing as expected, to identify any new side effects that may arise, and to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
“The public’s safety is always at the forefront of our minds and we take every report of a suspected side effect very seriously indeed. We thoroughly analyse each and every report as we receive it and although the number of reports of CVST and other thromboembolic events has increased over the last week, so has the overall number of vaccinations administered, therefore these blood clots remain extremely rare and unlikely to occur.”