Rare cases of blood clots in people who have been given the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine could raise questions over whether young people should receive it, a leading epidemiologist has said, amid reports the UK’s watchdog was considering new restrictions on the jab.
Professor Neil Ferguson, who has himself received the Oxford jab, said the risk of unusual blood clots appeared to be age-related, with younger people more likely to be affected by them.
Following a review of the vaccine earlier this week, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there was currently no evidence to suggest a causal link between blood clots and the Oxford jab – and that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing coronavirus outweigh any risks. It noted that 30 people out of the 18.1 million who had received the Oxford vaccine in the UK had developed blood clots, and seven of those had died, as of 24 March.
But Channel 4 News reported on Monday night that the MHRA was considering proposals to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZenica vaccine in younger people and a decision could be made as early as Tuesday.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Ferguson said: “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 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.”
He added: “I think it becomes slightly more complicated when you get to younger age groups where the risk-benefit equation is more complicated.”
Professor Ferguson said the MHRA and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) were considering the potential risk of blood clots from the jab “very urgently”.
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “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.
“No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”
Earlier this week, Dr Raine stressed the “benefits of Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in preventing Covid-19 infection and its complications continue to outweigh any risks and the public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so”.
Concerns about the possibility of blood clots caused by Covid vaccines have led some European countries to suspend their rollout of the Oxford jab.
However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said that there is currently “no evidence” to support restricting the use of the vaccine in any population, noting that a link with clotting was “not proven, but possible”.