The benefits of taking the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab "far outweigh" any "rare incidents of risk", the vaccines minister has said, as the UK’s drugs regulator investigates reports of blood clots.
Speaking to Sky News, Nadhim Zahawi reinforced the government’s message for people to get a COVID jab as experts at the UK’s independent drugs regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), continue to investigate reports of a very rare and specific blood clot in the brain after taking the Oxford jab.
They are also considering other very rare blood clotting cases alongside low platelet levels.
However, Mr Zahawi noted how the MHRA continues to recommend the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine be given to all ages over 18.
"The MHRA, led by June Raine, have been looking at this all the time," he told Sky News.
"They have always made sure they look at all incidents with all the vaccines that will be deployed.
"We’re currently deploying, at scale, Pfizer and, of course, Oxford-AstraZeneca.
"They’ve been very clear that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any of these rare incidents of risk and, if you get the call, to take your vaccine.
"But, of course, we will be guided by the MHRA, by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, as they continue to look at these very rare incidents.
"And I think that’s absolutely right."
Channel 4 News reported the MHRA was considering proposals to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people and a decision could be made imminently.
But, despite stressing the government would continue to be led by the regulator’s advice, Mr Zahawi added: "The regulator continues – as does the European regulator, as does the WHO [World Health Organisation] – to recommend that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine be given to all ages over 18.
"They continue to, obviously, monitor and look very carefully at these very rare cases of blood-clotting.
"Another perspective on this – we’ve done almost 20 million vaccinations using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and they make sure they look at each and every adverse incident that occurs.
"At the moment they’re being very clear; saying if you get your invite, please come forward and take the vaccine because it protects you, it protects your family, it protects your community."
More than 31.5 million people in the UK have so far been given a coronavirus vaccine in the UK.
And Mr Zahawi reiterated that he was "confident" that all UK adults would be offered a first dose by the end of July.
He continued: "My deployment team will be led by what the regulator, what the scientists tell us is the right thing to do.
"We’ve got other vaccines coming along. We’re doing the Moderna vaccine very shortly then, of course, the Janssen/J&J vaccine and more Pfizer and more AstraZeneca.
"So we are in a good place because of decisions Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson took very early on last year to make sure we have the vaccine available to us to protect the whole nation – and I’m confident we’ll do that by the end of July."
Dr Raine, the MHRA’s chief executive, said: "People should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.
"Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.
"No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action."