Jeremy Hunt Says “Balance of Risks” Should Be Considered Amid Oxford Vaccine Blood Clot Questions
Jeremy Hunt has said that the “balance of risks” should be considered when it comes to the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines as regulators look into possible links between the jab and cases of rare blood clots.
A trial looking at the efficacy of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine — which has played a central part in the UK’s rollout — on children has been halted while the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) investigates a possible link to blood clots.
“There may or may not be a causal link, but even then it's the balance of risk,” Hunt, chair of the health select committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“What we know is that the risk of Covid killing you is much higher for older people, and it looks like the risk of this type of blood clot is also lower for older people so that risk profile may change depending on age.”
Hunt highlighted public confidence in the UK's vaccine programme, despite delays relating to safety concern across Europe.
“Our 7-day death rate is down to 30 of day compared to 9 times that in France," he continued.
"I think people understand that the vaccine program is saving lives but they also understand the advice changes as we get to learn more about these vaccines."
The UK's medicines regulator, the MHRA has said it is aware of 30 cases of rare blood clot events out of the 18.1 million doses of the jab given up to 24 March, which have resulted in seven deaths.
Concerns were first raised by the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) safety committee, which expects to announce its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.
Professor Adam Finn, an adviser to the government on vaccines, told the BBC's Today programme the known cases were “out of the norm”.
“What stands out about them is that we see thrombosis, including thrombosis in the cerebral veins, all the time,” he said.
“But we don't normally see them in association with a low platelet count, which is a small blood cell which is involved in blood clotting.
"That makes them stand out, and makes us think that this is something a little bit different and out of the norm.
“Otherwise, we would probably be saying, well, these cases happen and we don't think they are to do with the vaccine.”
“But the fact that they're this unusual constellation of features of thrombosis, low platelet counts, and one or two other things that we measure in the blood as well make us think that there's something special going on and make us want to really understand if that's a vaccine caused event.”
Yesterday, the Prime Minister defended the safety of the UK-developed vaccine during a trip to the AstraZeneca manufacturing plant in Macclesfield, Cheshire.
"The best thing people should do is look at what the MHRA say, our independent regulator – that's why we have them, that's why they are independent," Boris Johnson said.
"Their advice to people is to keep going out there, get your jab, get your second jab."
Concerns about the safety of the AstraZeneca jab come as the US-made Moderna vaccine begins its rollout in the UK today — the third to be approved after versions from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
The UK has ordered 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, with Scotland receiving its first batch on Monday and Wales accepting a batch on Tuesday.
The first doses will be administered in Carmarthenshire, Wales from Wednesday, where the Hywel Dda University Health Board vaccination centres has received 5,000 doses.