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Public Health Wales statement on JCVI advice on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme (VPDP) at Public Health Wales, said:

“Over 35 million people in the UK, and 1.9 million in Wales, have so far been protected by COVID-19 vaccines, and over 22 million people in the UK have received the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, of which nearly 6 million have had the second dose. We continue to advise people to get their COVID-19 vaccine when they are invited. It is estimated that COVID-19 vaccines have prevented over 10,000 deaths in the UK so far.

“The JCVI has advised it is essential to keep rapidly rolling out vaccination, and any delay increases the chances of an earlier and larger third wave.

“After ongoing review, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has today advised that in addition to those aged under 30 advised on 7 April, unvaccinated adults aged 30 - 39 years who are not in a clinical priority group because of long term health conditions, should where possible be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, where it would not significantly delay vaccination.

“JCVI is not advising against using AstraZeneca vaccine in 30-39 year olds, only that other vaccines are preferred. JCVI advise that anyone who has already received a first dose of AstraZeneca should continue to receive the same vaccine for their second dose, there are no clotting safety concerns with the second dose. It is the second dose which gives stronger and longer protection.

“Extremely rare cases of thrombosis (blood clots) with thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) following the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been reported to the MHRA after the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a rate of 10.5 per million doses. There is a trend to a higher rate in younger age groups. The condition can be severe, with a fatality rate of 20 per cent.

“Coronavirus itself also causes clotting, and blood clots have been a very common complication in the hundreds of thousands of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 infection in the UK, also causing deaths. The COVID-19 vaccine can reduce the risk of you getting seriously ill or dying from coronavirus by over 90 per cent, including preventing blood clots caused by COVID-19. The balance of risks and benefits have been taken into account by the JCVI.

“In Wales 9 cases of this rare type of blood clot have been reported by the MHRA, 2 of the cases sadly died.  Over 1 million people in Wales have received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

“Information on how to identify this rare condition is available in the PHW website. You should seek prompt medical advice if you get any of these symptoms starting from around 4 days to 4 weeks after being vaccinated:

  • a severe headache that is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse
  • a headache that feels worse when you lie down or bend over
  • a headache that's unusual for you and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures (fits)
  • a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin
  • shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal (tummy) pain”

The JCVI statement can be found here.