UK advises under-40s get alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine due to small risk of blood clots

A health worker prepares to administer an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine dose in London. Source: Sipa USA Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/Sip

The UK's vaccine advisory panel says that due to a small risk of blood clots people under 40 should have an alternative to AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot.

British officials say people under 40 should be offered an alternative to Oxford/AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot where possible due to a small risk of blood clots, given the low number of cases and the availability of other shots.

AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot, developed by Oxford University, has resulted in reports of rare blood clots with low platelet levels that occur more commonly in younger adults.

It was advised last month the shot not be the preferred jab in Australia for adults under 50.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the advice reflected low levels of COVID-19 infection in Britain and the availability of other vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Officials said that Britain would still offer a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by the end of July.

"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," said Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI.

"The advice is specific to circumstances in the UK at this time and maximises use of the wide portfolio of vaccines available.

"Previously, advice was only for people under 30 to be offered an alternative vaccine.

The British MHRA medicine regulator has found an incidence of 17.4 clots per million doses of the vaccine among 30 to 39-year-olds, compared with 10.5 clots per million doses overall.

There have been 2.1 deaths from the clots per million doses reported overall, rising to 4.5 deaths per million doses for the 30 to 39 year olds.

June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine "continue to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people".

"The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people, but is more finely balanced for younger people." 

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