New advice to avoid giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to younger age-groups should have a “zero or negligible” impact on the target to vaccinate all adults by July, so long as supplies of other jabs arrive as planned, deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam has said.
And prime minister Boris Johnson said there was no question of deviating from the current roadmap for lifting the bulk of lockdown restrictions by 21 June, saying that the UK was “secure” in its supplies of vaccines.
Regulators the MHRA today said that adults aged 18-29 should be offered alternative vaccines, after new evidence linking the AZ jab to a very small number of potentially fatal blood clots.
But Prof Van-Tam said there should be little or any impact on the vaccination programme, which aims to offer at least one jab to all UK adults by the end of July.
“It is a course correction,” he said. “But nevertheless, it is full speed ahead with the UK vaccine programme, so that we can get life back to normal.”
And he issued a plea for all adults still to come forward to receive their jabs when invited.
Prof Van-Tam told a press conference: “The effect on the timing of our overall programme should be zero or negligible.
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“That is of course contingent on getting the supplies we expect to get of the alternative vaccines - the Pfizer vaccine currently in use and the Moderna vaccine that we hope to bring into deployment from mid-April in England.”
Speaking during a visit to Cornwall, the prime minister said: “I don’t see any reason at this stage at all to think we need to deviate from the roadmap. And we’re also very secure about our supply.”
Mr Johnson urged Britons to continue coming forward to receive their jab.
He said the updated advice “should allow people of all ages to continue to have full confidence in vaccines, helping us save lives and cautiously return towards normality”.
Prof Van-Tam said it had always been the UK strategy to have “multiple horses in the race” so that alternative vaccines are in place to allow medics “flexibility” in their deployment.
And he said: “Clearly, this is a course change. We don’t want it to result in a loss of vaccine confidence.
“It remains vitally important that all adults in the UK come forward for vaccination when they are offered.”
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