UK has ‘more than enough’ Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for 8.5million under-30s
The UK has “more than enough” doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for 8.5million under-30s awaiting a jab, Matt Hancock said today.
The Health Secretary insisted the UK’s vaccine rollout and roadmap will not be delayed after a change in policy over the AstraZeneca jab.
UK under-30s will be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine while experts review a possible link to rare blood clots, it emerged yesterday.
The MHRA unveiled new advice after 79 cases of rare blood clots were reported out of more than 20million doses of the AstraZeneca jab – with 19 deaths.
But if the AstraZeneca vaccine is the only one available in their area, people will still be offered that jab – regardless of their age.
The AstraZeneca jab rollout is not being halted in the UK and scientists across the spectrum, including in the EU, insisted benefits of the jab still outweigh the risks.
Mr Hancock today insisted the fact a blood clot risk, affecting just one in 250,000 AstraZeneca recipients, had been identified showed “the safety system is working”.
It was “impressive” that regulators have spotted a four-in-a-million event, the Health Secretary added.
Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said of the clots: “These are extremely rare events.
“Much, much more rare than, for instance, clots due to common drugs that we prescribe such as the contraceptive pill; much rarer than clots during pregnancy; much, much rarer than clots due to Covid itself.”
There had been questions over whether the jab rollout might be slowed down.
But Prof Harden told ITV’s Good Morning Britain he is “pretty confident” all adults will be offered a first dose by July 31.
He added: “With a little bit of rejigging, and maybe a one or two-week delay for some people, we’ll get round this, but I’m quite confident we will reach those targets with the current advice that we’re giving.”
The UK has ordered 17million doses of Moderna vaccine, 40million of the Pfizer vaccine and 100million of the AstraZeneca vaccine
Mr Hancock said of 10.1million people aged 18 to 29 in the UK, 1.6million have already had a first dose, leaving around 8.5million people.
“We have enough more than enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to cover all of the remaining 8.5million people aged between 18 and 29 if necessary,” he said.
People under 30 who have already had the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are being advised to get the second dose, unless they had a serious blood clotting reaction the first time.
“There is no evidence of these events after second doses, as opposed to after first doses,” Mr Hancock said.
Meanwhile he pointed to a new study out today which showed the vaccine breaking the link between case rates and deaths – and warned even for young people, Covid can have “debilitating side effects that ruin your life”.
Prof Harnden added it is not known how long protection from a first dose will last without the second – and trying to “mix and match” vaccine brands is an “evidence-free zone”.
He told Good Morning Britain: “There is work undergoing at the moment to use different vaccine types but we just don’t have that data and we don’t have the safety data on doing that.
“So by far the safest option at the moment would be to receive the same vaccine type. People should not lose confidence in this Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, it’s a great vaccine.”
Ministers and health experts are launching a twin-approach to encouraging young people to take up coronavirus vaccinations – appealing to their sense of duty and warning them of the affects of Long Covid.
Sir David Spiegelhalter, Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University’s Winton Centre, said: “There is this indirect benefit to vaccinating younger people which I think we can see if we look at the huge number of people who are no longer transmitting as much.”
Asked about urging them to get inoculated for “altruistic” reasons, he said: “This is something that should have been emphasised all the time, that for younger people – OK, they can get Long Covid, and it would prevent huge numbers of that as well.
“But being vaccinated is as much a contribution to the community, their relatives, the people around them in preventing transmission as it is a direct benefit to themselves.
“This has always been the case and perhaps should have been emphasised more in the past – it’s the case for a lot of vaccinations that it’s not just the benefit to yourself, it’s to help everybody to induce what people are talking about, the possibility of herd immunity.”
Mr Hancock refused to rule out making the jab compulsory for care home workers, but said uptake has improved with 80% now getting it.
He added we will be living with Covid long-term, like we do for the flu. He told Times Radio: “We all want to get back towards something more like normal and we are going to have to live with this virus over the long term.”