Responding to the new recommendation from the JCVI to offer people under 40 years old an alternative to the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“While these very specific blood clots remain incredibly rare, and - as the MHRA continues to stress - the benefits of being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine outweigh the risks for the majority of the population, it is only right that the JCVI is monitoring emerging evidence alongside the wider public health context, and uses these to inform its recommendations.
“The UK is in a fortunate position where we have access to three different vaccines, but as we move into the next stage of the campaign, vaccinating the under forties with specific vaccines, the Government and NHS leaders must ensure that these are routinely and easily available for the people that need them.
“Given the recommendation is to offer an alternative to Astrazeneca ‘where possible’, in order to avoid confusion from patients and clinicians being inundated with requests for specific vaccines, it is vital that vaccination sites have advanced notice of which vaccine they are receiving so they are able to plan appropriately. Meanwhile booking systems must direct patients – whether they are under-40 or pregnant or planning to become pregnant - to sites with the correct vaccine.
“We must learn from the problems similar advice has created for pregnant patients, and ensure these are not be amplified as we expand the rollout to a much larger group.
“Clinicians and staff working at vaccination sites also need up-to-date guidance, allowing them to communicate effectively with patients, some of whom will understandably have questions about this decision and how it may affect them. Communication to the public will be vital to ensure that today’s announcement does not result in a loss of confidence, especially among those who are already hesitant.
“The vaccine campaign has been a true success so far, led by our hardworking NHS and public health staff, and a quarter of adults have now received two doses, which according to Public Health England has prevented thousands of deaths. It’s vital that we continue to vaccinate as many people as possible, controlling the spread of this virus and preventing serious illness and deaths as we cautiously put the country back on a path to normal life.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.