Updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommends that patients aged 30-39 should be offered a choice of vaccine to reduce the risk of extremely rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca jab.
The expansion of the patient group set to be offered a choice of vaccine comes a month after the government announced plans to offer either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines as a first choice to patients aged under 30.
The JCVI said that chances of people in younger age groups becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 were falling as infection rates drop in the UK.
Blood clot risk
Taking into account the 'portfolio of vaccines available in the UK in the coming months' and a cautious approach over 'the extremely small risk of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia following the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine', the JCVI said adults aged 30-39 without underlying health conditions should be offered an alternative product as a preference.
However, the committee warned this preference should only apply 'where available and only if this does not cause substantial delays in being vaccinated'.
By 28 April, the MHRA had received 242 reports of blood clotting cases in people who also had low levels of platelets in the UK after receiving a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It reported that 'overall incidence of case reports of thromboembolic events with low platelets after first or unknown doses was 10.5 per million doses', with the majority of cases occuring after the first dose.
JCVI chair Professor Wei Shen Lim said: 'Safety remains our number one priority. We have continued to assess the benefit-risk balance of COVID-19 vaccines in light of UK infection rates and the latest information from the MHRA on the extremely rare event of blood clots and low platelet counts following vaccination.
'As COVID-19 rates continue to come under control, we are advising that adults aged 18 to 39 years with no underlying health conditions are offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, if available and if it does not cause delays in having the vaccine. The advice is specific to circumstances in the UK at this time and maximises use of the wide portfolio of vaccines available.
'The COVID-19 vaccines have already saved thousands of lives and the benefit for the majority of the population is clear - if you are offered the vaccine, you should take it.'
The JCVI has said that as a precaution, anyone with the following symptoms from four days to four weeks after vaccination should seek medical advice:
- a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse
- a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over
- a headache that is unusual for you and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures
- a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin
- shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain