Chronicles

Will AstraZeneca vaccine decision delay pub reopenings? Boris Johnson says it shouldn’t

The decision to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in under 30s will not delay the roadmap to ease lockdown, the Prime Minister has indicated.

Young adults aged under 30 will no longer be offered the AstraZeneca jabs, following reports of a small number of blood clots in young people.

But with the Moderna vaccine now in use in the UK, which will be offered to under 30s along with the Pfizer jab, the Prime Minister says he does not expect the AstraZeneca suspension to delay his Government’s roadmap of plans to reopen pubs, restaurants, shops and gyms.

Non-essential retailers and beauty services like hairdressers and barbers can welcome back customers in-store from Monday April 12, the same day that pubs, restaurants and cafes can reopen for customers sat outdoors.

Hospitality venues are set to reopen indoors on May 17, as things stand, while the Government aims to remove all limits on social contact on June 21.

Speaking in Cornwall, Mr Johnson said: “I think the crucial thing on this is to listen to what the scientists, and the doctors, the medical experts have to say.

“The MHRA is meeting, the JCVI is meeting, they’ll be setting out the position and we will get on with rolling out the vaccine and obviously we’ll follow very carefully what they have to say.”

He added: “I don’t think anything that I have seen leads me to suppose that we will have to change the road map or deviate from the roadmap in any way.”

Much of the roadmap hinges on vaccinating over 50s, who will still be offered the AztraZeneca jab and are encouraged to take it up.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, told a briefing the clots were “extremely rare” and the benefits of the jab were clear.

She added: “The evidence is firming up and our review has concluded that while it’s a strong possibility, more work is needed to establish beyond all doubt that the vaccine has caused these side effects.”

The Government aims to have offered everybody over 50 one shot by mid April and a second by the end of July.

The Health Secretary said everyone should take a vaccine when their time comes, and the risk of experiencing a brain clot was the same as “taking a long-haul flight”.

He urged the under-30s, who will be offered an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca, to take a jab to protect loved ones and avoid the risk of long Covid, adding there were plentiful supplies of Moderna and Pfizer for this age range.

In a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Hancock said vaccines are clearly breaking the link between Covid cases and deaths in the UK and were saving “thousands of lives”.

He told Sky News: “The number of people dying from Covid halved in the last nine days… and is down 90% from the peak.”

All vaccines in use in the UK were “safe for all ages”, but the “extremely rare” risk of suffering a rare brain blood clot, and the tipping of the balance of risk for the under-30s, means they could be given other jabs instead.

Speaking directly to younger people who may be thinking they do not need a vaccine, Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “The vaccines are safe, and if you want to have the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine instead then that is fine.

“Covid is a horrible disease and long Covid affects people in their 20s just as much it seems as any other age group and can have debilitating side effects that essentially ruin your life.”

He added: “The safety system that we have around this vaccine is so sensitive that it can pick up events that are four in a million (the chance of developing a rare brain blood clot) – I’m told this is about the equivalent risk of taking a long-haul flight.”

Mr Hancock said there were almost 10.2 million people aged 18 to 29 in the UK, of whom 1.6 million have had their first vaccine.

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