Under-30s in the North of Ireland and across the UK are to be offered an alternative Covid vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab due to the evidence linking it to rare blood clots.
The recommendation comes after a review by the UK drugs regulator.
It found that by the end of March 79 people had suffered rare blood clots after vaccination – 19 of whom had died.
The regulator said this was not proof the jab had caused the clots.
But it said the link was getting firmer.
The review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found:
The 79 cases and 19 deaths occurred after 20 million doses were administered – giving a risk of about four in one million of developing a blood clot
Nearly two-thirds of the cases of rare clots were seen in women
The people who died were aged between 18 and 79, with three of them aged under 30
All the recorded cases occurred after the first dose, although the lower number of second doses meant it was not possible to draw any conclusions from this
It comes as the EU’s medicines regulator says unusual blood clots should be listed as a possible very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca jab, but that the benefits outweighed the risks.
Some European countries have restricted the vaccine’s use.
The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the review confirmed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is “safe, effective and the benefits far outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults”.
June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, said the side-effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine were “extremely rare” – and more work was going to identify if the vaccine was definitely causing the clots.
“The balance of benefits and known risks is still very favourable for the majority of people,” she said.
But she said for younger age groups it was more “finely balanced”.
She added: “The public’s safety is at the forefront of our minds.”
Dr Raine said there was a “reasonably plausible” link between the vaccine and the blood clots, although AstraZeneca has said its studies have found no causal connection.
The review prompted the UK government’s vaccine advisory group, the JCVI, to recommend that people aged 18 to 29 be offered an alternative vaccine where available.
Professor Lim Wei Shen, of the JCVI, said the move was being made “out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns”.
In the next two weeks, almost half a millio doses of the new Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive in the North of Ireland.Tags: