Syringes are filled with Astrazeneca’s vaccine in the pharmacy.
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An alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is to be offered to people under 40 in the UK as concerns about its links to rare blood clots continue to weigh on adoption.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Professor Wei Shen Lim, chairman of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) said the agency had updated its recommendations for adults under 40.
“Building on our previous recommendations, we now recommend offering unvaccinated adults 30-39 years of age who do not have an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk for severe Covid-19, preferably an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine “he said, adding that this would only be the case if” there was no substantial delay in vaccination “.
He noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine was easier to transport and store than some of the alternative vaccines approved for use, which would affect how the new recommendations for those under 40 would be applied.
“In certain situations it may be the only vaccine that is practically available and in those circumstances it should actually be the vaccine of choice,” he explained, adding that the advice is also of good Covid-19 infection control and good Availability of alternative vaccines is contingent on and strong vaccination in the UK.
Rare blood clots
A very small number of people who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine have had blood clots.
Labeled “extremely rare” by health authorities, it is characterized by blood clots accompanied by low platelet counts.
As of April 28, the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulator (MHRA) had received 242 reports of large blood clots associated with low platelet counts that occurred after a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
There were 10.5 cases of low platelet count blood clots per million first doses of the AstraZeneca shot, the drug regulator said in its latest report on the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine. Dr. June Raine, executive director of MHRA, said Friday that the ratio for second doses had dropped to one in a million.
The death rate from rare blood clots was 20%.
In early April, the UK announced that it would offer people under the age of 30 an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved for use in the country in late December.
Benefits versus risks
Raine stressed during Friday’s press conference that the agency had not changed its approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine as the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.
“The balance between benefits and risks is very good for older age groups, but more balanced for younger age groups,” she said.
According to the MHRA report, updated Thursday, the incidence of such blood clots was higher in younger adults. There have also been more reports of blood clots in women, although officials noted that this was not seen in all age groups and “the difference remains small”.
In the UK, an estimated 22.6 million first doses and 5.9 million second doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine had been administered by April 28.
Both UK and EU drug regulators last month identified possible links between the vaccine and the rare blood clots. European Medicines Agency officials said most cases occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of being shot.
The World Health Organization and the International Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis have all stated that the benefits of giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.