People under 30 have been told there may be a “small delay” to when they will receive a coronavirus vaccine, given adults in that age group are now being recommended to take an alternative jab to the one produced by AstraZeneca.
Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said the rollout change was a “course correction” and a precaution against the “vanishingly rare” side-effect of blood clots.
In the UK, up to 31 March, there were 79 reports of rare blood clots with low platelets – some, but not all of them, in the brain – and 19 deaths, among more than 20 million AstraZeneca jabs.
Van-Tam said it was “quite normal” and “business as usual” for experts to alter their preferences on how to treat patients, but acknowledged it could have a knock-on effect for when people get offered a jab, given that only the Pfizer vaccine is now being distributed across the UK, while the Moderna one began to be offered in Wales on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference alongside experts from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI), Van-Tam said: “There might be a small delay sometimes, there might be a slightly greater distance that some people might be asked to travel. But the NHS is all over this and understands the challenge of making the advice from JCVI truly operational in a smooth way.”
About 10 million people are likely to be affected by the change, with the ONS estimating there were 10,161,904 people in the UK aged 18 to 29, as of 2019.
Van-Tam predicted the effect of delays to the overall vaccine rollout “should be zero or negligible” because of the supplies already ordered by the UK of alternative vaccines.
The vaccines minster, Nadhim Zahawi, said he was confident the government would still meet all its aims, tweeting: “We will follow the advice & are confident in meeting our programme targets.”