Under-40s could be asked to take an alternative to AZ Covid vaccine

Under-40s ‘could also be given an alternative Covid vaccine’ if more blood clots are found in AstraZeneca jab recipients – while Germans say people CAN mix-and-match for second dose

  • Medical watchdogs to look in  ‘scrupulous detail’ at risk-benefit for under-40s
  • Already banned for under-30s after clots risk more common than Covid death
  • JCVI said it would ‘need to think about this a little bit more’ for those in their 30s

AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine may also be restricted for under-40s when Britain’s immunisation drive moves down to younger age groups, it was claimed today. 

Medical watchdogs will assess data on the jab’s links to extremely rare blood clots in ‘scrupulous detail’ in order to paint a clearer picture on the exact risk-benefit ratio.

They have already advised 18 to 29 year olds are given an alternative to the UK-made jab because their odds of falling seriously ill with Covid are so small that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s do not clearly outweigh the potential clot risks.

Analysis of the UK vaccine rollout has found that younger people appear more prone to clotting after vaccination but there is no set cut-off age. Experts told MailOnline there is a ‘gradual age gradient of risk’. 

Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the JCVI, which advises No10 on jabs, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We’re going to start vaccinating phase two healthy adults, starting with the 40 to 50-year-olds, and then we’ll go to the 30 to 40-year-olds.

‘When we are approaching that point we’ll need to think about this a little bit more to be absolutely sure at what point in that age cut-off – given the situation we are facing at that time, and any more data that comes through on this rare complication, because more data will come through – then that might alter the age range.’ 

Statisticians insist the risk of under-30s developing blood clots from AstraZeneca’s jab is so tiny that if Wembley stadium was filled with people in the age group, only one would be struck down. 

For older adults, the risk of blood clots is even smaller – but their risk of dying from Covid is much higher, meaning the risks versus benefits swings heavily in favour of vaccination.

The move to recommend under-30s get a different jab does not mean it is unsafe for young people, with neither the UK’s drug regulator or the EU’s ordering the jab to be banned for certain age groups. 

But both acknowledge cases of blood clots from the life-saving jab appear to be occurring slightly more often in younger adults.

EU nations – who have been embroiled in a stand-off with AstraZeneca for months – have defied guidance based on statistical analysis showing the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks of the vast majority of adults. Belgium, Germany and Italy have halted the jab for under-60s. 

Berlin’s top medical body last night even advised younger adults already given AstraZeneca’s jab should get a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s – taking the polar opposite stance to British counter-parts. 

The UK is currently trialling this dosing regimen, and scientists say it is likely to be safe and effective but results are not expected until later in the year. 

Amid fears the guidance could scupper the UK’s vaccination roll-out, which is heavily reliant on AstraZeneca’s jab, ministers yesterday sought to dismiss blood clot fears. Health Secretary Matt Hancock compared the risk of blood clots overall – one in 250,000 – to taking a long-haul flight.

Britons are already cancelling appointments for AstraZeneca’s vaccine and asking for alternatives in light of the blood clot links, GPs have warned. 

Doctors say they have also been bombarded with complaints of headaches in people given the first dose. But polls show 75 per cent of the public still consider the jab to be safe.

A fit and healthy 34-year-old who was left in intensive care with blood clots after being given the AstraZeneca jab, has also sought to downplay fears. 

Mohammed Choudhury, from Poplar in east London, told MailOnline: ‘Despite my experience I would still advise anyone to have the jab. I just want to raise awareness of the signs to look for in the extremely rare cases where blood clots developed as a side-effect.’ 

Britons still back the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine – as 75 per cent tell pollsters (pictured) they consider it to be safe

Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the JCVI, which advises No10 on jabs, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We’re going to start vaccinating phase two healthy adults, starting with the 40 to 50-year-olds, and then we’ll go to the 30 to 40-year-olds’

Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the JCVI, said the public ‘should remain confident’ in the vaccine programme despite the changes to guidance.

He stressed to The Telegraph that the link with blood clots was a ‘very, very rare, extremely rare safety signal’. However, he said the new advice that those under 30 should be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca – is unlikely to change.

Professor Harnden said his team was poring over data for other groups and that they will have a ‘much more clear’ view a by the time the programme moves to thirty-somethings.

It comes after poll data showed Britons still back AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, with 75 per cent saying they consider it to be safe. 

The boss of AstraZeneca was criticised last night for failing to defend his company’s vaccine as its safety was questioned.

Pascal Soriot, who is currently staying in Australia with his family, was accused of not properly explaining the benefits of the jab to the public as it was linked to rare blood clots.

Regulators have stressed that the benefits far outweigh the risks but they have recommended alternatives for people aged under 30. 

But EdenTree Investment Management, a top AstraZeneca investor, said Mr Soriot had failed to properly defend the jab in public and should be doing so more forcefully.

Ketan Patel, a fund manager at the firm, said the chief executive ‘hasn’t been that public and being halfway around the world doesn’t give the right signal or message’.

‘Perhaps it is right to say where is the chief executive in terms of articulating the healthcare benefits? It’s OK to work remotely but if you are the boss of a multi-billion pound healthcare company with a vaccine, I can see why people would be thinking ‘why isn’t Pascal here’,’ he said.

It comes after another top shareholder, Royal London, rallied to Mr Soriot’s defence saying his efforts during the pandemic have been ‘heroic’.

Mr Patel told the Daily Telegraph: ‘Pascal has done hugely well, the company is delivering good growth, but that success is being overshadowed by negative sentiment over the vaccine.

‘If we were grading the PR effort, they could do better.

‘If you look at the data, and see that the chances of getting a blood clot with this vaccine is about four in one million, compared to four in 10,000 for the contraceptive pill, that perspective needs to be highlighted.’

It comes after another top shareholder, Royal London, rallied to Mr Soriot’s defence, saying his efforts during the pandemic have been ‘heroic’.

Insiders at Astrazeneca have previously stressed that Mr Soriot is working European business hours and keeps in regular contact with colleagues and clients via videoconferencing.

They said current restrictions mean he would still have to do much of his work remotely even if he was in the UK.

However, the company has said he plans to return as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.

Last night an Astra spokesman said: ‘Travel restrictions and local lockdowns mean it makes little sense to be travelling right now, particularly given that many countries require quarantine.

‘Mr Soriot will continue to empower his team of experts and remain in regular contact with operational leaders in the many sites across the world.’

The results by YouGov show a drop of two percentage points since March.

But it still ranks close to opinions of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which 78 per cent dubbed safe, The Times reports.

Nearly two thirds of those aged 18 to 24 felt the vaccine was okay to use, while just 13 per cent of all people polled deemed the AstraZeneca jab unsafe.

However, GPs warned yesterday that patients have started cancelling appointments for the vaccine and asking for alternatives. 

Dr David Triska, a GP partner at Witley and Milford Surgeries in Surrey, told MailOnline: ‘We have now been inundated with consultations relating to headaches and people defaulting their AstraZeneca appointment to try and get another vaccine. We are reassuring them the balance of risk is in favour of receiving the vaccine.’ 

The comments were echoed by the Mail On Sunday’s resident GP, Dr Ellie Cannon, who revealed she’d received lots of ‘requests for brain scans from well people’ who are concerned they may have developed the brain clots.

She said there had been ‘mass panic’ following yesterday’s announcement by British regulators, tweeting: ‘Lots of calls from patients thinking they’ve had a blood clot or wanting to be checked for one…… Have we handled this reporting correctly? Storm for GPs and A&E colleagues…’

The Government has launched a media blitz on the back of the JCVI’s ruling yesterday as officials scramble to shore up public confidence in the vaccine. 

Mr Hancock warned people under the age of 30 that refusing a coronavirus vaccine because of blood clot fears could ‘ruin your life’ due to the risk of catching the disease and developing ‘debilitating’ long Covid.

And Boris Johnson told the public the jab was ‘safe’ urging everyone who had booked an appointment to show up. 

Even Britons who have been struck down with the extremely rare blood clots have called for calm.

Mr Choudhury, a married financial services worker, said he thought he had pulled a muscle on a 5km run two weeks after having the jab. 

‘But within days I was in hospital and they told me the blood clots might reach my brain,’ he told MailOnline.

Despite being told he will need to take blood thinners for the next six months, Mr Choudhury still strongly believes people should have the vaccine.

UK regulators have insisted it is safe for Britons to receive their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, unless they suffered one of the rare blood clots after their first dose.

They say there is no evidence that the rare complication – which is mainly occurring alongside a low platelet count – is linked to the second jab and it might be an ‘idiosyncratic’ reaction to the first.

However, Germany’s regulator says the opposite because they don’t expect there to be any risks of mix-and-matching. 

Studies involving mixing vaccine doses are underway.

It comes after a study by Public Health England found the rollout has prevented 10,400 deaths in over-60s since the first jab was given to Margaret Keenan on December 8. 

PHE compared the number of Covid-19 deaths until the end of March with the expected number had millions of over-60s not been immunised.

They estimated the vaccine had stopped 9,100 deaths in those aged 80 and over, 1,200 in 70 to 79 year olds and 100 in 60 to 69s. 

Mr Hancock said: ‘That’s more than 10,000 families who haven’t suffered the loss of a loved one.

‘The science is clear – vaccines save lives. All three of our approved vaccines have been deemed safe and effective by our world-class independent medicines regulator.

‘The figures published today show why it’s so vital people get their second dose too. When people get the call, they should get the jab.’ 

On Wednesday UK medical regulators concluded the AstraZeneca vaccine was a ‘reasonably plausible’ cause of 79 cases of unusual blood clots, including 19 deaths. The NHS has now cancelled thousands of appointments for those aged 18-29 who were booked in to get their first dose of the AZ jab.

Most under-30s are not yet eligible but those who are, such as unpaid carers, will be rebooked with a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

The new advice from medical regulators has led to fears younger adults could shun the jab.

However, Mr Hancock said vaccinations are ‘the right thing for them, and the right thing for their loved ones, and ultimately the right thing for the country’.

Healthy 34-year-old man who suffered multiple freak blood clots that left him in intensive care two weeks after having AstraZeneca vaccine urges others to still take the Oxford jab

A fit and healthy 34-year-old has told how a freak reaction to AstraZeneca’s Covid jab left him in intensive care with blood clots, fearing for his life.

‘I thought I had pulled a muscle on my 5km run nearly two weeks after having the jab – but within days I was in hospital and they told me the blood clots might reach my brain,’ said Mohammed Choudhury. 

The married financial services worker from Poplar, east London, is now recovering at home and will have to take blood thinners for at least the next six months.

But he says he still strongly believes people should have the vaccine – even though he will not have the second jab himself on medical advice.

‘Despite my experience I would still advise anyone to have the jab. I just want to raise awareness of the signs to look for in the extremely rare cases where blood clots developed as a side-effect’ Mohammed told MailOnline.

Mohammed, 34, had no immediate reaction after receiving the jab and when he began to feel pains in his calf some 13 days later he initially thought it was due to pulling a muscle after one of his regular 5km lockdown runs with wife Alia.

But over the following five days he developed chest pains, breathlessness and headaches, and sought medical help by calling 111 and was admitted to The Royal London Hospital that evening after being advised to visit A&E. After a series of tests he was rapidly put on critical care.

‘In the space of 24 hours I went from expecting maybe a painkiller for a pulled muscle or something to being in a critical care ward on my own, unable to be visited by my wife,’ he told MailOnline in an exclusive interview.

‘There was a lot of fear of the unknown at first, as I didn’t know for a few days what the brain scan showed and whether there was an even higher risk to my health.

‘I didn’t know how dangerous these clots were as I have no history of this and I’m a healthy young man. It’s not the kind of thing that’s ever happened to me before.’

Mohammed, who lives with Alia, 31, in Poplar said that despite his experience he would still advise anyone to have the jab

How Mohammed Choudhury’s suffered rare blood clots after taking AZ vaccine

Mohammed and Alia 

March 10: Alia and Mohammed Choudhury both receive the AstraZeneca jab at vaccination centre.

March 23 (approx): Mohammed begins to feel pain in his right calf and puts it down to muscle strain after running with his wife.

March 23-March 28: The leg pain persists and he also begins to experience pains in his chest, along with breathlessness and dizziness

March 29: He calls NHS Direct and after a telephone consultation with a doctor an appointment is made at the Royal London Hospital’s A&E Dept. Mohammed is admitted to a ward for tests

March 29-30: Tests reveal that he has blood clots in his leg and lungs; a CT scan is ordered to check for clots on the brain. Mohammed is moved into the critical care ward.

March 31: Mohammed is relieved to hear that his brain is clear from clots.

April 5 (Easter Monday): Mohammed is released from hospital and now faces six months on anti-coagulant drugs. 

Mohammed, who lives with Alia, 31, in Poplar said that despite his experience he would still advise anyone to have the jab, but wanted to raise awareness of the signs to look for in the extremely rare cases where blood clots developed as a side-effect.

The drama began on March 10 when Alia was called in for her own jab and because of some missed appointments, Mohammed was asked if he wanted to take up one of the spare doses and agreed.

It wasn’t until something like 13 days later that he first noticed pain in his right calf and because the husband and wife had both been regularly running 5k twice a week, he assumed it was a muscle pain.

‘I put some ice on it, but it didn’t go away and a few days later I began to get chest pain and headaches,’ he said.

‘One Sunday night (March 28) it became unbearable and I called NHS Direct and they made me an appointment to go straight to A&E at the Royal London Hospital.

‘The diagnosis of DVT was a real shock. They told me it started in my leg and had spread to my lungs and they would have to give me a CT scan to check if there was any clots on the brain.

‘Initially I was on the ward, then moved into critical care. This was out of nowhere, I had no understanding that this was even a possibility. When they said they needed to scan me to check for clots in the brain, that was a really scary moment.

‘I had to call Alia and have a really upsetting conversation with her about what they’d found and what might happen next. It was very apparent from the beginning that this was very new – many of the doctors were saying this was uncharted territory and we’d have to see how things went as they progressed.

I was moved to a critical care unit where I had a few IV tubes going into me with blood thinners and anti-biotics because I had a temperature and there was also a drip with antibodies.

‘The general aim was to allow my body’s platelet count to recover while also thinning my blood to stop any new clots forming or growing those already present.’ 

Thankfully, after a few days, Mohammed’s brain was declared free of clots and on Easter Monday, he was released from the Royal London.

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE SUFFERED THE RARE BRAIN CLOTS AFTER GETTING THE ASTRAZENECA VACCINE? 

MHRA data leaked to ITV shows that, in total, more fatal blood clots have developed in 30 to 39-year-olds than any other age group.

According to the regulator’s review, by March 31 there had been 79 cases of the side effect and 19 deaths.

The 79 cases occurred in 51 women and 28 men, aged from 18 to 79. 

Some 14 cases of the 19 were cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), a specific type of clot that prevents blood from draining from the brain.

The other five cases were thrombosis. An age breakdown of the cases is shown below: 

Age range

18 – 29

30 – 39

40 – 49 

50 – 59

60 – 69

70 – 79

Unknown 

Cases 

11 

16

10

12

13

5

12 

 Fatalities

6

2

2

3

1

 Total

 79

 19

He said: ‘I can’t thank them enough for the care they gave me, it was quite exemplary.

‘They were really good the way they communicated with me and they also showed a lot of concern for my wife because they knew she was on her own. We were able to speak on the phone each day.’

Tax adviser Alia added: ‘We have been together working from home just the two of us throughout the lockdown so it’s a really hard situation to manage emotionally when you’re suddenly on your own.’

Now Mohammed will have to be on a course of anti-coagulants for the next six months to prevent any new clots forming as the clots will hopefully be absorbed back into his body. He still has pain in his legs and gets tired easily but the headaches have gone.

Mohammed said he had been advised by doctors not to take the second AZ jab. ‘It’s just too risky for me, given what’s happened. I’m not sure about what the position would be with other vaccines, but for now I’m just concentrating on getting better. It’s frustrating that I don’t have as much energy as I did have before I got ill, but hopefully I’ll get stronger as time goes on. It’ll be a while before I start running again though.’

But he is adamant he doesn’t want his experience to put anyone off having the injection.

‘The chances of getting Covid are far, far higher than the kind of freak reaction I experienced, and Covid poses a risk to everyone around you, especially older relatives, so I would absolutely say get the jab.

‘But I do think people need to be aware of the signs to look for which could be an indication of clots forming – pain in the legs or chest, possibly headaches, breathlessness and blurred vision.

‘I was lucky that it was spotted early, and I hope anyone else in the same situation will seek medical help as soon as possible.’

Mohammed – who has since been discharged – said an examination of his most recent routine blood test a few years ago showed no sign of a low platelet count. 

The Royal London Hospital was contacted for a comment.   

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