Leading scientific adviser throws doubt on giving Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to children after blood clot reports

Leading scientific adviser Neil Ferguson said the development of blood clots in people who had been given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine raised fresh questions over whether young people should be given a jab. The adviser, who has had the Oxford jab, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “In terms of the data at the moment, there is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated, particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine but it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts. “It appears that risk is age-related, it may possible be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.

“And so the older you are, the less the risk is and also the higher the risk is of Covid so the risk-benefit equation really points very much towards being vaccinated. “I think it becomes slightly more complicated when you get to younger age groups where the risk-benefit equation is more complicated.” Prof Ferguson said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) were “considering this matter very urgently” but added: “No vaccine, no medicine is risk free – it is always about a balancing equation against risk.”

Prof Ferguson said testing everyone coming from Europe could be required to keep coronavirus variants of concern under control. Asked about the risks with opening up to international travel, he said: “I think the key thing is the risk of importing variants which might undermine our vaccination programme and the one we’re particularly concerned about at the moment is the South African variant called B.1.351. “The concern here… is the proportion of cases reported in a number of European countries which are this variant is now up to anywhere from 4-5% in France and up to 17%, nearly 20% up in Luxembourg.

“So rather than some of the ‘red list’ countries which are far away, I think where the real policy challenge lies in terms of mitigating risk is around what to do around travel to Europe and back.

“I think that (testing everyone from European countries) would be sensible and reconsidering the exemptions in place at the moment.

“At the moment, there is a very long list of exemptions for jobs and professions – if you’re a truck driver or travelling on Government business, then you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to even test.

“I think it would be sensible for at least everyone to be tested when they are coming in.”