The UK’s medicines regulatory body has said that no decision has been made on any regulatory action relating to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine following reports it is considering restricting use of the vaccine in younger people.
Channel 4 News claimed on Monday evening that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was considering the restrictions amid concerns about rare blood clots, and a decision could be made as early as Tuesday.
It reported: “Two senior sources have told this programme that while the data is still unclear, there are growing arguments to justify offering younger people – below the age of 30 at the very least – a different vaccine.”
However, both sources also emphasised their support for the Oxford jab and their concerns that any restriction of its rollout could damage public confidence in it.
Later on Monday, the MHRA’s chief executive Dr June Raine said no decision had been made and urged people to continue to get vaccinated.
“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 said. “No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”
Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday that the clots raised questions over whether young people should get the jab. He said: “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 possibly be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.
“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.”
It comes as the European Medicines Agency is set to rule on Wednesday on whether countries should carry on giving out the jab as part of its vaccine programme.
In the last month, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands have paused the vaccine’s rollout while the EMA investigates.
The MHRA has identified 30 cases of rare blood clots out of the 18.1m doses of the jab administered up to and including 24 March. Of these reports, seven people have died.
But scientists have said the risk of not getting the vaccine far outweighs the small chance of blood clots.