Good morning. Yesterday’s announcement from the government that people under the age of 30 will be allowed to reject AstraZeneca and choose another vaccine because of the possible link to extremely rare types of blood clots was always likely to do some damage to public confidence in the vaccine programme. As my colleague’s Sarah Boseley and Daniel Boffey report in their overnight story, one public health expert described this as “a severe blow to the public’s vaccine confidence”. And so it is not surprising that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has been out this morning seeking to reassure people.
Here are some of his key messages.
- Hancock said the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe at all ages”. That was the view of the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, he said, and its EU equivalent, the European Medicines Agency. He said that yesterday’s decision about offering a choice to the under-30s was just taken out of “an abundance of caution”.
- He said that the UK had “more than enough” Pfizer and Moderna doses to cope if under-30s do reject the AstraZeneca vaccine. He explained:
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 also said the speed of the overall vaccine rollout programme would not be affected by yesterday’s decision.
- He said the risk of developing a severe blood clot from the Astrazeneca vaccine was about four in a million – the same as the risk from taking a long-haul flight. He said:
The safety system that we have around this vaccine is so sensitive that it can pick up events that are four in a million – I’m told this is about the equivalent risk of taking a long-haul flight.
- He said young people should continue to get vaccinated not just because of the risk of death from Covid, but also because of the risk of long Covid. He said:
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.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes the latest weekly death figures for England and Wales, as well as figures from its infection survey about the characteristics of people testing positive for coronavirus.
11am: Members of the Northern Ireland assembly debate a motion on the recent rioting. The assembly has been recalled from its recess for the occasion.
2pm: Public Health England publishes its weekly Covid surveillance report.
Also, Sir Keir Starmer is on a visit to Bristol.
Politics Live has been mostly about Covid for the last year and I will be covering UK coronavirus developments today, as well as non-coronavirus politics. For global coronavirus news, do read our global live blog.
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