Giving under-30s an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab will not delay the target of offering all adults a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of July, Scotland’s national clinical director has said.
UK regulators have said there is a possible link between the jab and “extremely rare” blood clots and advised that people aged 18 to 29 be offered the Pfizer, Moderna or other jabs that come on stream as the vaccination programme rolls out across the UK.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said that while it has not concluded the vaccine causes rare brain clots, the link is getting firmer – though it insisted the benefits of the jab still outweigh the risks overall.
Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said the risks were “vanishingly small” and urged people to take up the offer of a vaccination.
He said: “There are a small number of cases where people who have had the vaccine have suffered blood clots.
“The safety monitoring we have in place not just here but around the world means that research will have to continue to consider any possible link, we can’t say definitively one causes the other, however given the number of people who have had a vaccination, this blood clotting issue is very rare.
“There is considerably more risk in relation to contracting Covid than there is of getting a blood clot from the vaccination.”
Speaking during a coronavirus briefing on Thursday, he said Scotland remains on track to vaccinate all over-18s by the end of July despite the change in advice about which vaccine should be offered to under-30s, though younger people may have to travel further for their jab.
He said: “We have reviewed the modelling as best we can in the timescale we have had and though I can’t tell you definitively, the first pass of that modelling says that this will not delay the end of July target for all over-18s to be offered a first dose of the vaccine.”
He added: “Because the joint committee went for 30 and not 50, for example, it means that we are not doing 30-year-olds just now, we’re not doing first dose, non-clinically vulnerable 30-year-olds and therefore we have time to work out what Pfizer and Moderna will mean.
“I imagine that when we go to that stage, we may be asking them to travel a little bit more because Pfizer and Moderna are freezer vaccines, not fridge vaccines and therefore the logistics of it are slightly more difficult and that might slow somewhere in those middle weeks, but I actually believe we can get to July in time and the pace will be exactly as the supply allows it to be.”
The MHRA said those who have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should still get their second.
Prof Leitch said that symptoms of blood clots in extreme cases are difficult to miss and include chest pain and difficulty breathing and anyone experiencing this should seek medical help.
He said he will be getting his jab on Friday and will take whichever vaccine he is offered.
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