AstraZeneca vaccine: 'Cautious' move to withhold jab from under-30s should reassure public, says Matt Hancock

  • Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

People should be reassured by health regulators’ move to recommend vaccines other than AstraZeneca for under-30s, Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary insisted the “abundance of caution” taken by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to withhold the jab for those under 30 should be seen as reassuring not alarming.

Extremely rare cases of blood clots that may be linked to the jab have prompted the move, with 79 cases and 19 deaths reported – a rate of four cases per million.

Speaking directly to younger people who may be thinking they do not need a vaccine, Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “The vaccines are safe, and if you want to have the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine instead then that is fine.

  • ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke speaks about the progress of the vaccine rollout:

“Covid is a horrible disease and long Covid affects people in their 20s just as much it seems as any other age group and can have debilitating side effects that essentially ruin your life.”

Asked if he fears the move will provoke a drop off in the uptake, he told Sky News: “There’s no need of that. We’ve seen this incredible uptake of the vaccine in this country.

“What we’ve learned in the last 24 hours is that the rollout of the vaccine is working, we’ve seen that the safety system is working, because the regulators can spot even this extremely rare event – four in a million – and take necessary action to ensure the rollout is as safe as it possible can be.

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“And we are seeing that the vaccine is working. It’s breaking the link between cases and deaths.”

He added: “The speed of the vaccination programme is not affected by the decisions yesterday. You can see and be reassured by the fact we’re taking an abundance of caution and we’re making sure we’re rolling this out in the safest way possible.”

Mr Hancock said there is “more than enough” Pfizer and Moderna doses to cover the remaining 18-29 year olds.

He said: “There are 10.16 million people aged 18-29 in the UK, 1.6 million of them have already had their first jab.

“Anybody who’s had the jab should continue with the second jab because there’s no evidence of this affect after a second jab and we have more than enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to cover all of the remaining 8.5 million people aged between 18-29 if necessary.”

He told ITV News the government is "confident we've got the doses coming through that we need to deliver on the target of vaccinating all adults by the end of July.

His words echo those of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who told reporters during a visit to Cornwall on Wednesday: "I don't see any reason at this stage at all to think we need to deviate from the road map. And we're also very secure about our supply."

Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a press conference on the MHRA ruling that the change in advice for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should not delay the rollout of jabs.

He told the briefing: "The programme should not be delayed because of this change in course, everything should stay on course."

He added: "We do expect to have quantities of Moderna beginning to be deployed from mid-April in England.

"The UK has placed orders with Janssen, we do not yet have certainty on the timing of delivery, but that vaccine could become available over the summer."

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked if he thinks the Government acted quickly enough after concerns were first raised about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

During a campaign visit to Bristol, he said: "I have complete confidence in our regulators in the UK. They operate to very high standards and I think we should all follow their advice.

"Their advice is that the benefits far outweigh the risks, so listen to our regulators. They are first-class regulators and have been throughout."