The head of the team who developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab has said safety is "paramount" and encouraged everyone to get their jab despite a growing list of countries suspending its use over blood clot fears.
Professor Andrew Pollard said no link had been found between the vaccine and blood clots.On Sunday Ireland became the latest country to suspend the use of jab as "precautionary step" after reports of people getting blood clots soon after getting the vaccine.Professor Pollard told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “important to understand that a lot of stuff happens to people all the time in normal times and, in the case of blood clots here in the UK, we see about 3,000 cases of blood clots happening every month.
“So, when you then put a vaccination campaign on top of that, clearly those blood clots still happen and you’ve got to then try and separate out whether, when they occur, they are at all related to the vaccine or not.”
He said more than 11 million doses had now been given in the UK and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had said “very clearly that they’re not seeing any increase in the number of cases of blood clots” over what they would see normally.
Finland has also done a “very careful study” and have not found an increased risk, he added.
“I think at this moment we’ve got the most data from the UK, which looks very reassuring, but of course it’s absolutely right that there’s careful monitoring of safety and this gets looked into.”
The MHRA has said the available evidence “does not suggest the vaccine is the cause” of clots.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also said the vaccine’s benefits continue to outweigh its risks and that jabs can keep being administered while it carries out a review into any incidents of blood clots.
The EMA pointed out last week that there had only been 30 cases reported among almost five million people jabbed in the European Economic Area.
AstraZeneca’s chief medical officer said the number of cases of blood clots reported is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population.
AstraZeneca has insisted it is safe, saying a review of available data in more than 17 million people who have been vaccinated across the UK and EU has shown no evidence of an increased risk.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said there was “no demonstrable difference” in the number of blood clots seen between the general population and the 11 million who have so far received the jab.
He told the BBC if there any concerns about the safety of the vaccine the information would be made public "straight away."
He said: "I spent all yesterday in our practice vaccinating with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – I would not be immunising my own patients unless I felt it was safe."
He added: "One ought to also remember that Covid causes blood clots. So, the risks of not having the Covid vaccination far outweigh the risks from the vaccinations."
Ireland's decision to suspend use of the vaccine followed reports of serious clotting in adults in Norway which left four people in hospital.
The Netherlands also said on Sunday that it was suspending use of the vaccinations as a precaution for two weeks.
Several other European countries have already temporarily suspended use of the jabs.
AstraZeneca said its review had found no evidence of an increased risk of the main causes of blood clots - pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia - in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.
Dr Phil Bryan, vaccines safety lead at the (MHRA), said people “should still go and get their Covid-19 vaccine when asked to do so.”
Dr Bryan said: “We are aware of the action in Ireland.
“We are closely reviewing reports but given the large number of doses administered, and the frequency at which blood clots can occur naturally, the evidence available does not suggest the vaccine is the cause.
“People should still go and get their Covid-19 vaccine when asked to do so.”
Professor Pollard said there were “huge risks” from Covid and “if we have no vaccination and we come out of lockdown in this country, we will expect tens of thousands of more deaths to occur during this year”.
He added: “A number of countries around Europe are now seeing an increase in cases again.
“Italy and France and Germany and Poland – all have the start of a new surge in cases.
“It’s absolutely critical that we don’t have a problem of not vaccinating people and have the balance of a huge risk – a known risk of Covid – against what appears so far from the data that we’ve got from the regulators – no signal of a problem.”
He added there was “very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe been given so far”.
The latest developments came as charities in the UK wrote an open letter to encourage people with underlying health conditions to come forward for a vaccine.
Meanwhile, MPs have called on the Government to stop “moving the goalposts” in decisions on coronavirus restrictions, urging it to publish data thresholds for its road map out of lockdown.
A report by the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said the framework for lockdown and tiering decisions changed “repeatedly”, with decisions not always appearing to reflect new information.
The committee warned that this had led to confusion and mistrust among the public – despite trust being a “crucial factor” in the success of the response to the crisis.
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