BORIS Johnson today urged Brits to carry on taking the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine as European scientists found a link to “very rare” cases of blood clots.
The PM said everyone who is offered the jab should take it and that the benefits of getting protected from Covid far outweigh any risks.
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Speaking during a visit to Cornwall, he said the shot is “safe” but that “the crucial thing for everybody is to listen to what the scientists, the medical experts have to say”.
And he also insisted that his roadmap out of lockdown is still on track.
This afternoon Britain’s regulator, the MHRA, said under-30s should be offered other vaccines.
Its boss Dr June Raine said the “risk remains extremely small” despite “evidence firming” up of links between the shot and blood clots.
Reacting to the decision, the PM thanked scientists for their “important work looking at the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has updated on the potential for extremely rare side effects”.
He said: “As the regulators have said, this vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives – and the vast majority of people should continue to take it when offered.
“We will follow today’s updated advice, which should allow people of all ages to continue to have full confidence in vaccines, helping us save lives and cautiously return towards normality.”
He added: “We will get on with rolling out the vaccine and obviously we’ll follow very carefully what they have to say.
“I don’t think anything that I have seen leads me to suppose that we will have to change the road map or deviate from the road map in any way.”
The PM said people can “really start to see some of the benefits” of the UK’s successful jabs rollout and that will continue.
He said: “It’s pretty clear that the decline in the number of deaths, the decline in the number of hospitalisations is being fuelled, is being assisted, the steepness of that decline is being helped by the roll-out of the vaccines so it’s very important for everybody to continue to get your second jab when you’re asked to come forward for your turn.”
This afternoon Europe’s drugs watchdog said the clots should be listed as “very rare side-effects” of the jab but that people should continue to take it.
The EMA said that “so far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination”.
In a statement the agency said: “EMA’s safety committee has concluded today that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects.
“COVID-19 is associated with a risk of hospitalisation and death.
“The reported combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is very rare, and the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects.
“One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response.”
The agency said people who experience symptoms of clotting within a fortnight of taking the jab should seek immediate medical attention.
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- swelling in your leg
- persistent abdominal (belly) pain
- neurological symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches or blurred vision
- tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of injection
Boris, who has had the AZ vaccine himself, said the UK’s successful jabs rollout has saved thousands of lives already.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also urged Brits to come forward and have the “perfectly safe” vaccine.
He said that he himself has received the AZ shot and experienced “no side effects”.
And he added: “I would encourage everybody who’s invited to come forward to have a vaccine to come forward and have it.
“The most important thing coming out of this pandemic is we get just as many people vaccinated as possible.
“It is the light at the end of the tunnel, in the end it is the only way through this.”
Their remarks came after business minister Paul Scully insisted the UK’s vaccine rollout is still “on target” despite the concerns over the AZ jab.
A number of European countries including France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands have already stopped giving the shot to younger people.
And today South Korea also announced a pause on the jab’s use in under 60s.
The stoppage is due to concerns over rare blood clots which have occurred in some recipients – in particular young women.
Oxford University said late last night that that it has paused a British trial of the vaccine on children.
It insisted there were “no safety concerns” but said it’s waiting for more information from the medical regulator before restarting the programme.
Health ministers from the EU’s 27 countries will hold a video call this afternoon to discuss the implications for the bloc’s own snail-paced rollout.
Britain’s vaccine programme was given a boost today with the arrival of the Moderna shot for the first time.
The PM hailed the addition of an another dose to the UK’s arsenal and urged people to “please get your jab as soon as you are contacted”.
He said: ”We have ordered 17 million doses that will be going into arms across the UK in the coming weeks.
But there are fears the pathway out of lockdown could come under threat if health chiefs suspend use of the AstraZeneca jab in young people.
The vaccine is set to account for up to three quarters of all doses delivered to the UK between now and the start of June, according to leaked documents.