Today, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) released a statement on the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in people under the age of 40.
The new recommendation states that, as a precautionary measure, it is preferable for people under the age of 40 with no underlying health conditions to be offered an alternative vaccine where possible once they are eligible.
The new advice comes after a very small increase in reports of extremely rare cases of blood clots following the first dose of vaccination with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Anyone under the age of 40 who has already received a first dose of AstraZeneca should receive a second dose of the same vaccine.
This builds on the guidance issued last month which stated that people under the age of 30 years old should be offered an alternative vaccine to AztraZeneca.
The Head of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, Becky Sherrington, and the Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, have responded to these updates.
Becky Sherrington said: “We are incredibly grateful for the expert work of the JCVI as they continue to review the data and provide us with their recommendations. It was been proven that the Oxford-AztraZeneca vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives around the world. There are no safety concerns associated with people receiving a second dose of AstraZeneca and we will continue to offer it as a second dose for those who have received it as a first dose.
“Today’s news is positive and shows that, despite the extremely minimal risk associated with AstraZenca and young people, the evidence continues to be reviewed and taken seriously. The small increase in incidence levels demonstrates transparency and that the JCVI are doing everything possible to mitigate potential risk, despite that risk being extremely low.
“It’s very important that young people get the vaccine when it’s offered to them and we want to make sure they feel comfortable when making that decision. I hope that this announcement provides greater reassurance for anyone in the 30-39 age group who had any concerns.
“In advance of today’s announcement, our team have been working closely with the JCVI, Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care to ensure that we are operationally ready for any changes. For assurance, I can confirm that we will be implementing the advice with immediate effect. We have adjusted our operational delivery model and are ready to offer the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to anyone under 40 who is attending for their first vaccination appointment this weekend and beyond.
“This news will slightly impact on our operational delivery times for offering the vaccine to Islanders under the age of 30, however, we remain in a strong position to be completing the programme by August, which means everyone over the age of 18 will have been offered both doses of the vaccine by that time.”
Dr Ivan Muscat said: “The benefit/risk ratio under the age of 40 is very much in favour of vaccination. All medical interventions are a balance between the risk of treating or preventing disease on the one hand, and the risk of no intervention and the disease itself on the other.
“Over 34 million people in the UK have received a first dose of a COVID vaccine so far. The vaccine programme is estimated to have prevented over 10,000 deaths in England alone by the end of March.
“The Medical and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have been reviewing all of the information which is being reported through the Yellow Card scheme. Data shows that, up until the end of April, the occurrence of a specific type of clot remains very low. The MHRA had received 242 reports of blood clotting cases in people who also had low levels of platelets in the UK, following the use AstraZeneca vaccine. These numbers are extremely small compared to the millions of people who have received the vaccine. The overall incidence of case reports of thromboembolic events with low platelets after first or unknown doses was 10.5 per million doses.
“Those who have received a first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca, whether they are under the age of 40 or not, should continue to receive the same second dose.”
Government of Jersey News Release.