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Under-40s in UK to be offered alternative to AstraZeneca jab

Christian Fernsby |
Those under-40s will be offered an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine as a precaution, British health authorities announced Friday.

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The latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert advisory committee that advises Britain's health departments on immunisation, marks a shift to existing guidance where those aged under 30 were given an alternative to Astrazeneca over blood clotting concerns.

Latest data from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) showed there have been 242 blood clots in combination with low platelets in more than 28 million people who had the AstraZeneca vaccine up to April 28.

Previously, the MHRA had said the balance of risk for the AstraZeneca vaccine against coronavirus is very favourable for older people but "more finely balanced" for younger groups.

The JCVI said an alternative jab should only be given where it does not cause a major delay in immunization as experts fear that a significant delay to the vaccine rollout could increase the risk of a third wave.

The AstraZeneca jab is the only one of the three licensed vaccines that can be distributed at fridge temperature. The JCVI suggested that in some circumstances, AstraZeneca may be the only practical dose to offer.

People who have already had one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine with no relevant side effects will also be offered it second time around, according to regulators. The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to "outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults", regulators said.

More than 34.9 million people have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

Experts have warned that despite progress in vaccine rollout, Britain is "still not out of the woods" amid concerns over new variants, particularly those first emerged in South Africa, Brazil and India, and the third wave of pandemic on the European continent.