AstraZeneca: Expert discusses EMA’s stance on COVID vaccine
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The briefing will be led by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Dr June Raine, Chief Executive of the MHRA, Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Committee of Human Medicines, and Professor Wei Shen, chair of the JCVI. The announcement comes after Marco Cavaleri, the head of the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) head of vaccine strategy, said it was “increasingly difficult” to say there is “no cause and effect relationship” between the Oxford jab and “rare cases of unusual blood clots”. He said: “We are a regulatory agency and we must have very precise data on the risk-benefit ratio.
“We are trying to get the precise picture of what is happening, to define in detail this syndrome due to the vaccine.”
Out of the 18.1 million people who have had the Oxford vaccine in the UK, 30 people have developed blood clots.
Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the JCVI, said it was vital to keep the vaccine programme going as society opens up, in order to help prevent rising infection rates.
Some European countries have restricted the vaccine use in younger people following reports of low platelet counts and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), which is a specific type of clot that prevents blood from draining from the brain.
AstraZeneca press conference today (Image: GETTY)
When asked if different vaccines could end up being used for certain groups as more vaccine types come on stream, Prof Finn told BBC Breakfast: “That’s certainly possible.
“We are seeing another vaccine coming in (Moderna), and further vaccines are approaching licensure, and I know that the UK has made contracts for quite a wide range of different vaccines.
“As time goes forward, we will have much more flexibility about who can be offered what.
“On the other hand, we do need to keep the programme going if the plan to open things up and allow things to get back to normal is to proceed without another wave of the pandemic coming through.
The briefing will be led by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (Image: GETTY)
“So it’s quite a tricky balancing act here, getting the balance right, getting vaccines coming through… getting the risk-benefit right for people coming forward.”
He also urged people who were being offered the vaccine at the moment to take it, as he said the “risk-benefit is very strongly in favour of receiving the vaccine”.
But Dr Maggie Wearmouth, a member of the JCVI, told the Daily Telegraph that “perhaps slowing things down” with the rollout “until we’re absolutely certain” might be a better option.
She said: “The issue is about safety and public confidence. We don’t want to cover anything up that we feel that the public should be knowing.
AstraZeneca: Expert discusses ‘risk’ of COVID-19 jab
“We’re not here to blindly follow targets or due dates. We will do what is necessary.”
Meanwhile, GP Dr Ellie Cannon told the BBC the rate for this type of blood clot was around one in 2.5 million people.
She added that in 2.5 million 40-year-olds with Covid “we would expect around 2,000 deaths”, adding the risk of a clot was “incredibly rare”.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises ministers, said he was “not worried one little bit” about headlines around the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The UK has soared ahead of other countries with its vaccine rollout (Image: EXPRESS)
He told LBC radio: “I’ll take (it) myself, I’m 53, my risk of death from Covid is about one in 13,000, for me it’s a no-brainer, I need to have the vaccine.
“This vaccine is safe. What do I mean by safe? You can look right, look left, look right again, cross a road, it’s safe to cross because you don’t see any cars (but) you can trip, you can stumble.
“Nothing is risk-free, but is the vaccine safe? I would say yes.”
Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, also urged people to keep their vaccine appointments.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is among those who have received the AstraZeneca jab (Image: GETTY)
He told Sky News: “I think that’s on balance at the moment – there’s still transmission of Covid, and there is a risk to all of us of being infected, particularly as the economy is being opened up and society’s opening up, we are at risk of getting severe infection.
“So I would certainly be going forward for that vaccine in the current situation.”