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Alternative to AstraZeneca will be offered to under 40s

AN alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered to most people under the age of 40, the medicines safety regulator has said.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) expects the move to boost confidence in the vaccination programme.

The decision has been taken after a review of the uptake of coronavirus vaccines across the country and the most up-to-date figures on the rare blood clots a minority have experienced after first shots of the AstraZeneca jab.

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According to UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) there have been 242 clotting incidences as well as 49 deaths, following almost 30 million doses of the vaccine being administered.

However, the risk remains slightly higher in younger age groups. Last month, the MHRA recommended that under-30s be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, the chair of the JCVI’s Covid-19 group, said safety remained the number one priority. He added, “As Covid-19 rates continue to come under control, we are advising that adults aged 18- 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 risk of a clot is roughly one in 100,000 for people in their 40s, but rises to one in 60,000 for people in their 30s.

Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the MHRA, said the benefits continued to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people. She remarked, “The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people, but is more finely balanced for younger people.”

It is believed that the enhanced supply of alternative vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna, has made the decision possible.

All adults are still expected to be offered their first dose of a vaccine by the end of July. It is estimated that immunisation has already saved some 10,000 lives in the UK.

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