People under the age of 40 in Britain will be offered an alternative to the Astrazeneca coronavirus vaccine following concerns of rare blood clots.
In a press conference this morning, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that adults in the UK aged between 30 and 39 should seek an alternative vaccine.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, member of the JCVI’s Covid subcommittee, said: “Safety remains our number one priority.
“As Covid-19 rates continue to come under control, we are advising that adults aged 18- 39 years with no underlying health conditions are offered an alternative to the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine, if available, and if it does not cause delays in having the vaccine.”
The move marks an extension of the JCVI’s current guidance, following a decision by the committee last month to steer under-30s away from Astrazeneca jab.
The JCVI said the risk of severe harm from Covid does not outweigh the small risk of dangerous blood clotting linked to the vaccine among younger people.
The fresh offer will mean an additional 4.5m people aged between 30 and 39 in the UK will be urged to seek an alternative to the Oxford jab.
However, under-40s will still be able to get the Astrazeneca jab if supply problems mean waiting for another vaccine could result in a significant delay in being vaccinated.
The JCVI insisted that no new safety concerns have emerged over the Astrazeneca vaccine and that the recommendation amounted to “precautionary” advice.
Supplies of Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna jabs are sufficient to make up the bulk of remaining first doses for adults in the UK, with Astrazeneca largely being used to complete second doses for older people.
A further 139,097 people were vaccinated for the first time yesterday, with ministers confident of a strong increase in first doses in the second half of May as supply continues to pick up after a spring slump.
So far, more than 51m vaccines have been administered in Britain using the Astrazeneca, Pfizer/Biontech and Moderna drugs.
The jab programme is currently focusing on inviting over-40s to come forward for their first injection, with the scheme due to widen to over-30s later this month.
Since last month’s decision to urge under-30s to seek an alternative to the Astrazeneca jab over rare blood clot fears, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has reported an increase in incidents, with 242 cases of clotting identified, including 49 deaths.
Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA said the benefits continued to outweigh the risks for the “vast majority of people”.
She added: “The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people but is more finely balanced for younger people.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the position of the MHRA and JCVI “continues to be that the benefits of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults”.