The UK's medicines regulator's decision to withhold the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for those under 30 should be seen as "reassuring not alarming", Matt Hancock has said.
It's a move which the health secretary insists was taken with an “abundance of caution” by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Both Mr Hancock and chief scientists are seeking to maintain public confidence in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine a day after regulators pointed to a one in a million chance of dying from a rare blood clot.But a number of European countries, including Holland, have restricted use of the vaccine in younger people after reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), a specific type of clot that prevents blood from draining from the brain.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is also investigating blood clot links with the vaccine and will provide an update this week.
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.
This is how countries the world over have reacted to the blood clot concerns.African Union
The 55 member states that make up the African Union (AU) has dropped plans to buy AstraZeneca vaccines from the Serum Institute of India.
The AU is instead exploring options with Johnson & Johnson, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
The Serum Institute will still supply the AstraZeneca vaccine to Africa through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility that is being run by the WHO.
Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister, announced that people under 50 would now be recommended to take the Pfizer vaccine. At a reactive press conference on Thursday evening, Mr Morrison said he was unable to say what impact the new advisory would have on the rollout, but he conceded it would need to be “recalibrated”.
However, more than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine have been sent from the UK to Australia, according to reports. Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not deny the reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age about the shipment, despite the UK facing a squeeze on vaccine supplies.
At a glance: How advice differs between countries on the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab:
UK: Under-30s should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab
Spain and Italy: Limit to use in those over 60
Belgium: Use suspended in people under 56 for the next four weeks
Sweden and Finland: Used only for over-65s
France and Canada: Restricted to use in over-55s
Germany: Recommended only for those over 60
Denmark and Norway: Use suspended in all age groups until at least next week
Australia: Avoid further use on under-50s
Spain joined other European nations on Wednesday in limiting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the elderly due to concerns over links to extremely rare blood clotting. Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias announced after meeting with regional health chiefs that authorities would limit jabs to those over 60 years old. Until now, Spain has used AstraZeneca on its younger population, limiting it to those under 65 years old.
Darias said that authorities would now consider lifting that upper limit on the shot that forms a key pillar of the nation’s vaccination scheme.
Italy's top adviser on the coronavirus crisis, Franco Locatelli, has recommend the "preferential use on individuals aged above 60".
Locatelli, who coordinates the panel of experts that advises the Italian government on coronavirus, said the data on blood clots only pointed to a link for people receiving the first dose. At a press conference, he added that "there should be no problem for those under the age of 60" receiving their second and final dose of the vaccine.
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