LONDON: People under 40 in Britain will not be given the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine if another shot is available because of a link to extremely rare blood clots, the government said Friday. It said the change would not affect the goal of giving all U.K. adults at least one vaccine dose by July.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said people aged 30 to 39 without underlying health conditions should receive an alternative vaccine, “where available and only if this does not cause substantial delays in being vaccinated.” Last month it gave the same advice for people under 30.
”Any vaccine offered early is preferable to a vaccine offered too late,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the JCVI, an expert body that advises the government.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said the government expects to be able to follow the new advice and still meet its target of giving everyone over 18 a vaccine jab by July 31.
“We have to maintain the pace and scale of the U.K. vaccination program,” Van-Tam said, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective and “thousands are alive today” because they received it.
Britain has recorded more than 127,500 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. But recent infections and deaths have plummeted thanks to extensive lockdowns and a rapid vaccination program. Two-thirds of U.K. adults have received at least vaccine jab and almost a third have had both doses.
A majority have had the AstraZeneca shot, though Britain is also using vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Several countries in Europe have chosen only to use the AstraZeneca vaccine on older people because of evidence there is a link to a type of very rare blood clot, accompanied by low blood platelet count.