An update on an investigation into whether the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine directly causes rare cerebral blood clots will be released in a press conference on television this afternoon at 3 p.m.
The briefing will be led by England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who can be seen regularly at the Downing Street pandemic press conferences.
The UK Medicines Agency will release an update on its investigation into whether the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine directly causes rare cerebral clots in a 3pm television briefing.
MHRA Managing Director Dr. June Raine, Chairman of the Committee on Medicinal Products for Human Use Sir Munir Pirmohamed and Chairman of JCVI Professor Wei Shen attend.
Some European countries have restricted vaccine use in younger people following reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) – a type of blood clot that prevents blood from draining from the brain, as well as low platelet counts – cells that help the blood clot.
On Tuesday it was announced that the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine study in children was halted while the UK regulatory agency, the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), investigated CVST reports.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said people should keep getting their pokes.
How many people are affected?
According to the latest MHRA update, 30 cases of CVST and seven deaths have been reported in the UK in more than 18.1 million people who received the sting.
There have also been reports of CVST cases in Germany and cases of blood clot clusters in Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark, but experts say these incidents are rare.
How did other countries react?
Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada have restricted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people, while Denmark and Norway have discontinued administration.
However, several European countries – such as Greece, Italy and Portugal – use the vaccine without such restrictions.
What do the regulators say?
The MHRA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have both indicated that there is no evidence that the vaccine caused these rare blood clots, although they continue to monitor the situation.
Although a definitive association cannot be ruled out, regulators believe that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any potential risks.
The MHRA and EMA are expected to update their research on whether the AstraZeneca vaccine directly causes these rare blood clots.
What did AstraZeneca say?
AstraZeneca has announced that it will continue to analyze its database to understand “whether these very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet counts) are more common than would naturally be expected in a population of millions of people”.
Meanwhile, a study of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine in children was suspended on Tuesday, but the scientists involved said there were no safety concerns about the study itself and they are awaiting further information from the MHRA.
Oxford University said in a statement, “Although there are no safety concerns in the pediatric clinical trial, we are awaiting additional information from the MHRA on their review of rare cases of thrombosis / thrombocytopenia reported in adults before giving further vaccinations in the trial . “
What do the experts say?
Scientists in the UK largely agreed with regulators, saying the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Professor Adam Finn of the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) said it was important to keep vaccines going while opening up society to prevent rising infection rates.
He urged people currently being offered the vaccine to take it, saying that the “risk / benefit ratio is very strong for receiving the vaccine”.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) advising ministers, said he was “not the least bit concerned” about the headlines surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a personal capacity, he told LBC Radio: “I’ll take it myself, I’m 53 years old, my risk of death from Covid is around one in 13,000, for me it’s a no-brainer that I have to have the vaccine.” “
Meanwhile, former MHRA chief professor Sir Kent Woods told LBC Radio: “Covid itself – the infection itself – is known to be associated with a significantly increased risk of various types of blood clots.
“At a time when the population has a lot of Covid, it is very difficult to know what the real background rate of these clotting events is without the vaccine.
“We can say I think if there’s a connection it’s a very, very rare one.”
What other vaccines are there?
The UK is currently using two vaccines, Pfizer / BioNTech and Oxford / AstraZeneca, while a third coronavirus vaccine, the Moderna Jab, was launched in Wales on Wednesday.
Preliminary results announced Tuesday from trials of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine, which is slated to be manufactured in the UK, showed that it elicited a “strong immune response” and paved the way for a phase 3 clinical trial paves.
The UK has an agreement in principle for 60 million cans of the Valneva sting with the option to purchase an additional 130 million cans from 2022 to 2025.
The country has also ordered 30 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, which has been shown to be 66% effective at preventing coronavirus infection.
Both the Valneva and Johnson & Johnson jabs will require regulatory approval for use in the UK as soon as data from subsequent studies become available.