Matt Hancock Insists He Will “Take Whichever Vaccine Offered” Amid AstraZeneca Blood Clot Concerns
Matt Hancock said people should "take confidence" from the MHRA's "cautious approach" (Alamy)
Matt Hancock has said he “looks forward” to getting whatever vaccine he is offered as he seeks to reassure the public about the safety of the AstraZeneca jab.
It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) confirmed yesterday that under-30s would be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after 79 people in the UK suffered rare blood clots, 19 of whom died, after taking it.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam described the move as a “course correction”, and insisted that incidence of the clots in those who had been vaccinated were “vanishingly rare”.
His reassurances were echoed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday, who insisted that the move was “about making sure that this vaccination programme is as safe as it possibly can be given that all drugs have side effects”.
“What matters is the benefit balanced with the risk," Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
"In the case of a vaccine for a communicable disease, it's not just the benefit to all of us as individuals, it's the benefit to the whole of society from all of us getting the jab.”
Hancock confirmed that he himself would be happy taking the Oxford vaccine, which he could still be offered due to his age.
“The evidence clearly shows that the vaccination programme is saving thousands of lives, so I look forward, as a healthy 42 year old, to being able to get vaccinated as soon as my turn comes, and I will take whichever vaccine I am offered,” he said.
Hancock added that people should “take confidence” from the fact that the “world class” Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had taken a “cautious approach” amid concerns over the vaccine's safety.
Speaking on Sky News, the health secretary insisted that this change to the advice regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine would not impact the timetable of the rollout, under which all UK adults are expected to be offered their first dose by July.
“We're in good shape on the supply of future vaccines, and obviously we had the great news that we started the rollout of the Moderna vaccine yesterday in Carmarthen in Wales,” he said.
“The vaccine programme is proceeding well. The speed of the vaccine programme is not affected by the decisions yesterday, you can see and be reassured by the fact that we're taking an abundance of caution, and we're making sure that we're rolling this out in the safest way possible.”
Professor Anthony Harnden, who sits on the JCVI, urged people not to “lose confidence” in the vaccine programme as it would help the country avoid a third wave of coronavirus infections.
“It's quite clear that there will be a third wave in this country, and the vaccination programme and the slow unlocking will be the way out,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
“It's really important that those who are receiving an offer of a vaccine now take up that vaccine when offered.
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is still a really, really good and effective vaccine. I's been shown by lots of data that, actually, it's not only preventing infection, it’s preventing hospitalisations and deaths in very large numbers.
“So we just need to press on and not lose confidence.”
He added that data on blood clots among the under 30s was still in the “very early stages”, and that, by the time most in and just above that age bracket are offered the jab, “the data will be much more clear”.