The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has issued advice to the government on the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, following reports of blood clots in a very small number of people.
The JCVI says there have been reports of an extremely rare adverse event of concurrent thrombosis (blood clots) and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) following vaccination with the first dose of AstraZeneca. There are no reports of thrombosis/thrombocytopenia following receipt of other COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK, which are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Data shows there may be a trend for increased risk of blood clots/low platelet count for younger adults.
JCVI says benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks for those people aged 30 years of age and over and those who have underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease.
But JCVI says it is preferable for adults aged below 30 years without underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative COVID-19 vaccine, if available. People may make an informed choice to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to receive earlier protection.
Priority groups such as health and social care workers, unpaid carers and household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals under 30 who are still unvaccinated will be offered an alternative COVID-19 jab if available.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said: “Safety remains our number one priority. Based on the available data and evidence, JCVI has advised that it is preferable for adults aged under 30 with no underlying conditions to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine where available.
“This weighs up the risks of being seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 against the extremely small risk of a serious adverse event.
“The COVID-19 vaccines have already saved thousands of lives and the benefit for the majority of the population is clear – if you are offered a vaccine, you should take it.”
All those who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should continue to be offered a second dose of the same vaccine, irrespective of age. To date, there are no reports of the extremely rare thrombosis/thrombocytopenia events following receipt of the second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Since the start of the pandemic over 4 million COVID-19 infections have been confirmed in the UK causing more than 120,000 deaths. Over 30 million people have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine since the start of the programme, which Public Health England (PHE) estimate has prevented at least 6,000 deaths in the first 3 months of 2021.