Vaccines minister urges all offered Covid-19 jab to take up offer - as regulator reviews blood clot risk

ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke has the latest information on the vaccine

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has urged people who are offered a Covid-19 vaccine to take up the offer.

It comes as regulators are examining potential links between the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and rare blood clots.Asked about reports the regulator was considering proposals to restrict the use of the vaccine in younger people, Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: "The regulators absolutely look at, very closely, any adverse incidents through the yellow card system.

"And June Raine, who is the chief executive of the MHRA, our independent regulator, said last night that if you get the invite for the vaccine to take that invitation and get the vaccine and get protected.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi Credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

"At the same time, they are looking at these very rare instances of blood clotting.

"To put it in perspective, we have done almost 20 million vaccinations using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

"Both vaccines have saved something like 6,300 lives between December and the end of February, so it’s important to continue to follow what the clinicians, the scientists, the regulators tell us. And we will absolutely do exactly as they say.”

The UK vaccines regulator is reportedly considering advising against young people, at least those under 30-years-old, taking the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is said to be reviewing its guidance amid concerns the risk of extremely rare blood clots could be marginally higher among younger people.

Channel 4 News reported two senior sources had revealed the MHRA was being urged to restrict the jab, developed with Oxford University, in younger people - with a decision expected as early as this week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives the thumbs up after receiving the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine Credit: Frank Augstein/PA

The MHRA said last week it had identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events out of 18.1 million doses of the jab administered up to March 24.

But the regulator has said the benefits of the vaccine in preventing coronavirus far outweigh any risks and urged people to continue to get their jab when invited to do so.

Dr June Raine, MHRA CEO, confirmed: "People should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so."Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca."

She stressed: "No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action."

The UK has so far not stopped the jab among younger people, but a number of other countries - including Germany and France - have done so after worries that balance of risk could be a different scenario among the young.

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London. Credit: PA

Epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson confirmed to Radio 4's Today programme that the regulator was "considering this matter urgently".

Speaking on Monday, Prof Ferguson said the development of blood clots in people who had been given the jab raised questions over whether young people should be given it.

The adviser, who has had the AstraZeneca jab, told Today: "In terms of the data at the moment, there is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated, particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine but it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts.

"It appears that risk is age related, it may possible be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.

Coronavirus: What you need to know has more on the AstraZeneca jab:

"And so the older you are, the less the risk is and also the higher the risk is of Covid so the risk-benefit equation really points very much towards being vaccinated.

"I think it becomes slightly more complicated when you get to younger age groups where the risk-benefit equation is more complicated.”

Prof Ferguson said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) were “considering this matter very urgently” but added: “No vaccine, no medicine is risk free – it is always about a balancing equation against risk.”