Professor Jackie Taylor, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, has issued the following comment following the publication of updated guidance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on the efficacy and safety of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Professor Taylor said:
“I welcome the updated guidance by MHRA, the UK agency responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices are effective and acceptably safe. While we understand that people may be feeling concerned, we should feel reassured that safety monitoring is taken so seriously as the successful vaccination programme continues in the UK and around the world.
“The updated guidance given yesterday by the MHRA and the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) said that people under 30 years old should be offered an alternative to the Astra Zeneca vaccine to protect them from COVID-19 as a precautionary measure, given the very low incidence of an extremely rare clotting issue (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis). The very low numbers of such thromboses are difficult to interpret. The MHRA report yesterday highlighted that by 31 March 20.2 million doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca had been given in the UK meaning the overall risk of these blood clots is approximately four people in a million who receive the vaccine.
“Since the start of the pandemic over four million COVID-19 infections have been confirmed in the UK causing more than 125,000 deaths. Over 30 million people have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Analysis of data since the introduction of the vaccination programme in the UK shows that vaccination is highly effective and substantially reduces the risk of infection, severe COVID-19 disease and death. The risk of severe disease associated with COVID-19 increases steeply with age with the youngest adults at lowest risk.
“The advice from the MHRA and EMA (European Medicines Agency) continues to be that for the populations currently being vaccinated, the benefits of vaccination outweigh any possible risk and I urge everyone to take up the offer of both the first and second vaccinations when they are invited. Even a small delay in roll out of vaccine may result in a more significant third wave, so it is extremely important that we continue the vaccination programme.
“The UK has a long-standing robust system of monitoring drug safety which will continue to monitor the effectiveness and safety of all COVID-19 vaccines. The pandemic coronavirus continues to be a huge threat around the world and we must not be complacent.”