COVID-19: MHRA and JCVI to hold news conference at 3pm over Oxford-AstraZeneca jab blood clot concerns

Blood clot concerns linked to the Oxford vaccine will be addressed by the UK’s drugs watchdog at a news conference this afternoon.

The briefing, together with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), will be held at the Department of Health at 3pm.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam will be among those attending, along with Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and JCVI chairman Professor Wei Shen.

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Use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab for younger Britons has been reviewed following concerns at the weekend when it was revealed that of the 18.1 million people who have had the vaccine in the UK, 30 people have developed blood clots.

The MHRA confirmed that of those 30 people, seven had died as of 24 March.

But the drugs watchdog maintained there was no evidence to suggest a causal link between the rare blood clots and the Oxford jab, and that the benefits continue to outweigh any risk.

The same message has been echoed by ministers.

The EU’s medical regulator is also expected to announce the findings of its own review into the jab, after several European nations paused rollout of the vaccine to younger people, following reports of the condition that prevents blood draining from the brain.

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It comes after the head of the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) head of vaccine strategy said it was "increasingly difficult" to say there is "no cause and effect relationship" between the Oxford jab and "rare cases of unusual blood clots".

However, Marco Cavaleri added that full evaluation work was still "far from being completed" and that the risk-benefit ratio was still in favour of the vaccine.

Any move to restrict use of the jab will inevitably raise questions over the rollout of the UK’s vaccination programme.

The government has secured a total of 457 million doses, of which 100 million are from the Anglo-Swedish firm.

However, the government has continued to express confidence that all adults would be offered a first jab by the end of July, pointing to other vaccines coming onstream, including the Moderna jab.

Meanwhile, Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, has urged people to keep their vaccine appointments.

He told Sky News: "I think that’s on balance at the moment – there’s still transmission of COVID, and there is a risk to all of us of being infected, particularly as the economy is being opened up and society’s opening up, we are at risk of getting severe infection.

"So I would certainly be going forward for that vaccine in the current situation."

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