Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Coronavirus: UK expert urges people in 20s to keep getting vaccine

People in their 20s should continue to get vaccinated against Covid despite the very rare cases of blood clotting linked to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine because of the wider benefit to their families, friends and neighbours – as well as the direct benefit to themselves, a leading expert has said.

Prof David Spiegelhalter, the chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said the advantages of continuing to vaccinate people far outweighed the risks.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, he said the evidence suggested that if a cohort of people in their 20s large enough to fill Wembley Stadium was given the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, one person among them would likely develop blood clotting.

While Spiegelhalter acknowledged the concerns around each individual case, he said the risk of each must be weighed against the direct benefits to the tens of thousands more directly protected by the vaccine – as well as the indirect benefits to anyone those people came into contact with thereafter.

“This is something that perhaps should have been emphasised all the time for younger people, who can get long Covid, and it would prevent the huge numbers of that as well, but [also] being vaccinated is as much a contribution to the community and their relatives and the people around them. Preventing transmission has this direct benefit for themselves.”

He was speaking the day after the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced that healthy 18- to 29-year-olds who were not at high risk of Covid should have the option of an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab if one is available.

Explaining the move in terms of risk, Spiegelhalter said that with lower incidence of Covid at the moment and a plentiful supply of alternative vaccines, it was relatively important to try to avoid the risk of the blood clots in healthy younger people, who the evidence suggests are a little more susceptible to the blood clots than older people.

However, he said that, should there be a resurgence of Covid transmissions or a decrease in the vaccines available, the relative importance of the risk of blood clots would decrease.

Speaking to Sky News, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said there were “more than enough” stocks of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs for younger people to have them if they wished. But he said all three vaccines were safe and anyone who had had a first dose should have a second because there was no evidence of blood clotting after a second jab.

Prof Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford vaccine group behind the AstraZeneca jab, said “this is not the time to waver”.

He told Today that while relatively small risks to having the vaccine had been identified, the pandemic “really does continue to threaten the whole of humanity – today about 12,000 people around the world will be confirmed dead as a result of coronavirus”.

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