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UK to offer under-40s alternative to AstraZeneca shot

by Mary Sewell

”Any vaccine offered early is preferable to a vaccine provided too late,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs the JCVI, an expert body that advises the government. England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said the government expects to follow the new advice and still meet its target of giving everyone over 18 a vaccine jab by July 31.

“We have to maintain the pace and scale of the U.K. vaccination program,” Van-Tam said, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, and “thousands are alive today” because they received it.

Britain has recorded more than 127,500 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. But recent infections and deaths have plummeted thanks to extensive lockdowns and a rapid vaccination program. Two-thirds of U.K. adults have received at least a vaccine jab, and almost a third have had both doses.

Several countries in Europe have chosen only to use the AstraZeneca vaccine on older people because of evidence there is a link to a type of very rare blood clot, accompanied by low blood platelet count. British health officials say the risk from COVID-19 far exceeds any danger from the AstraZeneca vaccine for most people. Still, the calculation is “more finely balanced” for younger groups, who tend not to suffer severe illness from coronavirus infections. Up to April 28, Britain’s medicines regulator had received 242 reports of blood clots accompanied by low platelet count in people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine, out of 28.5 million doses given. There were 49 deaths.

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